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Press Release

£14bn a year up in smoke – economic toll of smoking in England revealed

16 May 2023

The £14bn annual toll of smoking on the nation’s economy is disclosed today [Tuesday 16th May], amid growing calls for a levy on big tobacco companies.

A new economic analysis of national data [1] commissioned by charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) takes a closer look at the impact of smoking on productivity in England.

As the cost of living crisis deepens, the negative effect on earnings and employment prospects due to smoking is laid bare, including:

  • £6.6bn lost to smoking-related unemployment.
  • £6.1bn lost to smoking-related lost earnings.
  • £1.3bn in smoking-related early deaths.

Smoking related ill-health is the most likely reason for this impact with smokers facing job losses, reduction in wages, and being more likely to die prematurely – all of which is taking a huge toll on individuals, families and the economy.

The overall cost of smoking to society in England is £17.3 billion, including a significant cost to the NHS and social care. Smoking-related hospital admissions and primary care treatments cost £1.9bn yearly, while it costs local authorities in England £1.1bn each year on care for smoking-related illnesses in later life.

It’s estimated that to provide paid-for care to meet needs would cost society a further £14bn [2]. This is not included in the overall £17.3bn figure but illustrates the wider burden of smoking.

Meanwhile the tobacco industry makes billions of pounds in profit each year, as smokers and their families pay the price for addictions established in childhood.

ASH and health campaigners around the country are urging the government to bring in a ‘polluter pays’ levy on tobacco companies to pay towards prevention and treatment.

Hazel Cheeseman, Deputy Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health, said:

“Smoking is a massive burden on society. It costs individuals in terms of their health and wealth and it costs us all when smokers are too ill to work.

“Smoking is still the leading cause of preventable ill-health and death in the country but resources to tackle it have been reduced. Recent announcements by Public Health Minister will not be enough to meet the Government’s ambition for England to be smokefree by 2030. We urgently need a levy on tobacco companies to pay for services which support people to quit smoking and to prevent uptake among young people.”

The new analysis also shows that smokers lose a large part of their income to tobacco – an estimated £14.3bn in England each year, or on average £2,451 per smoker.

Reducing smoking would help ease pressures on family budgets and enable people to spend their disposable income on non-tobacco products in their communities, which would help boost the local economy.

Bob Blackman MP, Chairman of the APPG on Smoking and Health, said:

"As a former council leader, I know a key priority for all local authorities is to deliver economic growth, increase employment opportunities and protect their communities from the cost of living crisis. The ASH Ready Reckoner is a valuable tool enabling every local authority to analyse the damage smoking is doing to their community and demonstrate how tackling smoking can boost the local economy as well as protecting families from the pain of losing loved ones too early.”

The costs have been broken down so local authorities and regions can see the impact of smoking in their area. Key stats below.

Area NameNumber of smokersOverall costHealthcare costsProductivity costsSocial care costsFire costs
East Midlands522,000£1.4Bn£168.8M£1.1Bn£98.6M£29.1M
East of England649,000£1.8Bn£204.9M£1.4Bn£128.4M£34.8M


North East313,000£992.5M£102.6M£811.6M£64.3M£14.0M
North West843,000£2.4Bn£281.4M£1.9Bn£171.6M£47.3M
South East875,000£2.7Bn£279.0M£2.2Bn£165.8M£43.7M
South West584,000£1.6Bn£182.6M£1.3Bn£113.4M£36.2M
West Midlands644,000£1.8Bn£207.0M£1.4Bn£127.1M£41.7M
Yorkshire and the Humber613,000£1.7Bn£189.8M£1.3Bn£118.7M£32.3M


Notes to the Editor

Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. For more information see: ASH receives funding for its programme of work from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

For interviews and more information contact Sarah Jeffery Mob: 07790 339059.


[1] The full tool and method is here

The Ready Reckoner is a tool for estimating the costs of smoking at a national, regional and local level. Costs due to smoking are derived for the following four areas: productivity, healthcare, social care and fires.

The England level information in the Ready Reckoner is based on 2021 ONS Annual Population Survey estimates of smoking prevalence (also available from the Local Tobacco Control Profiles tool), combined with Howard Reeds work on the costs of smoking. For regional and local breakdowns, estimates are derived using the population, economic, fire, age and smoking prevalence statistics of the region or local area.

For a full list of sources, please see the References section of the Ready Reckoner.

[2] ASH. The cost of smoking to the social care system, 2021. March 2021.