In the longer term the total cost might be lower, since some of those who die prematurely due to smoking might otherwise have gone on to cost the service even more money due to other health conditions.
NHS treatment isn't the only cost to the government, which spends money on things like sweeping up cigarette butts and putting out fires caused by cigarettes. None of this comes close to telling us what the NHS spends on smokers on top of what it would spend if they didn't smoke. Imagine a patient in her 40s who is diagnosed with terminal cancer as a result of her smoking. Now imagine we could go back in time and prevent her from taking up smoking in the first place.
She might live into her 80s, and even if she spends that time in relatively good health is likely to require any number of GP consultations and routine prescriptions in that time. It also takes a very narrow view of costs—there would also be economic costs to her premature death, which we deal with in the following section, as well as the very substantial personal cost to her and loved ones of her lost years of life and the suffering that comes with lung cancer.
While smoking has a direct impact on the NHS, it can also be said to have an indirect impact on society more widely for instance, fire services need to be called out to incidents caused by smoking and ill health can result in lost productivity at work.
That assumption has been criticised on the basis that it assumes smokers take more breaks than other workers. As in the case of NHS costs, the net effect on the public purse might be smaller in the longer term. People dying earlier can reduce the state's spending on social care and pensions. So the 'real' costs of smoking can go some way beyond admissions to hospital alone, although it's a mammoth task to put a number on this. Smokers will be all too familiar with the price of cigarettes, but perhaps not with how much of it is actually tax.
Even here, you could argue indirect benefits such as taxes from people employed in the tobacco industry and the contribution of tobacco sales to the economy as a whole could add to the Treasury's take.
Again, that's where we go beyond the realm of fact and into very complicated and uncertain estimates.
Tobacco Tax Revenue | Tax Policy Center
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Does smoking cost as much as it makes for the Treasury? - Full Fact
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Home Economy Does smoking cost as much as it makes for the Treasury? Does smoking cost as much as it makes for the Treasury? Do taxes on cigarettes bring in enough revenue to cover what smoking costs the government?
And the cost side of this equation is even trickier to pin down. The cost to the public purse is higher While smoking has a direct impact on the NHS, it can also be said to have an indirect impact on society more widely for instance, fire services need to be called out to incidents caused by smoking and ill health can result in lost productivity at work.
So is the Treasury clawing the money back? Isn't it nice to have the whole picture? Full Fact's factchecking toolkit. We aim for our factchecks to be as accurate and up-to-date as possible.
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