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Press Release

Make a new year quit attempt to help with cost of living

21 Dec 2022

Latest analysis shows the average amount smokers spend on cigarettes each year is the same as the average household energy bill

Smokers in England are being encouraged to search smokefree [1] and quit this new year as the cost-of-living crisis deepens.

It comes as Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) publishes its new smoking and poverty briefing [2] which highlights smoking as a key driver of inequalities in wealth as well as health. The average cost of smoking (£2,451 a year) is now equivalent to the average household’s annual energy bills (£2,500). [3] By taking action to quit for 2023, smokers can improve their health and wellbeing as well as gaining a significant cash boost to offset household bills for fuel or food, or even pay towards a treat for them or their families.

Smoking is not a lifestyle choice but an addiction. Most smokers started in childhood, with two thirds of those trying one cigarette going on to become daily, addicted smokers. [4] Quitting can be tough, on average it takes 30 attempts to succeed, [5] but getting help can increase your chances of success significantly, as Andrew Foster from Sheffield found.

Andrew quit around three months ago aged 58 after smoking for forty years. He quit with the support of Yorkshire Smoke Free Sheffield and used both an inhalator and patches. Despite having both prostate and bladder cancer, Andrew has noticed health benefits since quitting. He also now has extra money every week to help with the cost of energy and his food shopping.

He said: “I smoked for over forty years, and I’ve suffered with a number of big health setbacks. I had a Pulmonary Embolism in 2016, kidney stones in 2018 and I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2020 and bladder cancer in 2022. I finally managed to quit successfully in September this year.

“I live on my own and it was difficult. I would smoke as I thought it helped me cope with the stress. I knew I needed to quit to improve my health. A nurse in the urology department asked if I’d like some support to stop and I said yes. Yorkshire Smoke Free Sheffield have been brilliant and I’m three months quit thanks to them. I’m breathing much better and no longer have panic attacks.

“I’ve noticed the financial benefits and I’m around £25 a week better off, which is really helping with cost of living increases. It has been a struggle to keep up with bills, but now I have the extra money it has really helped. I’ve even been able to buy myself a treadmill as I wanted a healthier lifestyle and I’m now running 30 minutes a day.

If all smokers were able to quit, achieving the Government’s smokefree ambition, it could play a major role in helping tackle the cost of living crisis, by alleviating poverty and helping level up society. Analysis of national datasets for ASH found that:

  • Over 1.5 million households including smokers live in poverty (32.4%) with: 2.2 million working age adults, 1 million children and 400,000 pensioners
  • The cost of smoking as a percentage of average disposable income is 9%, with the highest average figure 11.4% in the North East, where the proportion of households living in poverty is also highest. [Data for all regions can be found in the briefing link available below at 2].

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, said:
People who smoke who live in poverty try just as often as any other smoker to stop, but the stressful circumstances they live in make it tougher to succeed. [6] Getting help increases your chances of successfully stopping smoking threefold, [7] and once you’ve succeeded the benefits are multiple, particularly for those living in difficult circumstances.

"Everyone knows that stopping smoking puts money in your pocket and improves your physical health, but research shows that after six weeks or so ex-smokers also find that they have lower levels of stress and anxiety than if they’d carried on smoking, equivalent to taking anti-depressants. [8] So if you smoke, why not make stopping your new year’s resolution and get 2023 off to a great start

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, and provides the secretariat to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health. For interviews and more information contact or Sarah Jeffery Mob: 07790 339059.