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Tuesday, May 19, 1998 Published at 19:08 GMT 20:08 UK

The real cost of smoking

Tobacco use causes about 92,000 deaths each year

Smoking costs the NHS between 1.4bn and 1.7bn a year, according to the most recent research. The estimate by the Centre for Health Economics, University of York, is considerably higher than previous calculations which put the cost of treating smoking related diseases at just 610m a year.

The centre says tobacco use causes about 92,000 deaths each year, which equates to an annual loss of about 400,000 life years.

The UK Government has promised to bring forward an anti-smoking strategy in 1998. The White Paper will form a key part of the government's overall health agenda. It will also set out how the government plans to introduce the EU-wide ban on tobacco advertising.

Stubbing out the habit

Slowly but surely, Britons are kicking the habit. At the beginning of the 1970s, a half of all men and more than two thirds of women smoked. By the early 1990s, only a quarter of men and women were still using tobacco.

It is assumed that if large numbers of smokers give up, the NHS will make substantial savings.

This is not necessarily the case. Dutch researchers have shown smokers may actually save society money because they do not live so long. The study, conducted by the Erasmus University Department of Public Health in Rotterdam, compared the health care costs of smokers to those of people of more advanced years.

They concluded that in the long run, if many people stopped using tobacco products, costs would actually rise as a healthier population eventually moved into nursing homes and into the relatively expensive diseases of old age.

They calculated the average lifetime costs of a smoking man to be $72,700 - much less than $83,400 for the non-smoking man.

Some important facts about smoking

  • The UK Government should raise 8.9bn from tobacco duty in 1998/99.
  • More than 12 million adults in the UK smoke cigarettes, roughly 28% of men and 26% of women.
  • There are wide differences between the different socio-economic groups; only 16% of men and 12% of women in professional groupings smoke compared with 40% of men and 34% of women in the unskilled, manual categories.
  • Smoking is highest among those aged 20-24, 38% of women and 40% of men in this age group smoke.
  • About 450 children start smoking every day.
  • 30% of the UK's 15-year-olds are regular smokers. Teenage smoking, particularly among young girls, is the one area where statistics appear to be on the increase.
  • One in four smokers who continue to smoke will die before they reach 65.
  • In 1995 more than 28% of all deaths between 35 and 65 were estimated to be as a result of smoking.
  • A 35-year-old man who smokes can expect to die more than seven years earlier than a man who has never smoked, while women can expect to die six years earlier than non-smoking women.
  • About 50 million working days are lost as a result of smoking-related illnesses.
  • Smoking kills more than 90% of lung cancer patients.
  • Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals.

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