Skip to main content
Press Release

True cost of smoking revealed in advance of World No Tobacco Day

30 May 2018

30 May 2018

New data published for World No Tobacco Day 31st May, by Action on Smoking Health shows that smoking costs communities in England £12.6 billion a year [1].

The figures show the additional pressure that smoking is putting on the NHS and social care services including annual costs of £2.5 billion to the NHS, and over £760 million to local authorities from smoking-related social care needs [1]. Local authorities can use an easily accessible web tool to break the data down to local level so they can see the impact on their communities [1].

Smoking remains the largest cause of preventable death in England. However, a 2016 audit found that more than 1 in 4 hospital patients were not asked if they smoke and 50% of frontline staff are not given routine smoking cessation training [2].

ASH Chief Executive Deborah Arnott said:

The Five Year Forward View calls for a ‘radical upgrade in prevention and public health’ but this has not been followed through and smokers are not getting the support they need to quit from the NHS. In some areas, Local Authority Stop Smoking Services have been reduced due to cuts in local authority funding. Cuts to public health budgets need to be reversed and the NHS needs to step-up and play a larger role in supporting smokers to quit.

Given the enormous burden tobacco places on society, ASH argues that the tobacco industry should be forced to pay to address the harm it causes in line with the ‘polluter pays’ principle [3]. It is estimated that tobacco companies in the UK make a collective annual profit of around £1 billion [4]. ASH calls for the Government to place a levy on the tobacco industry with the money raised used to fund support for the recurring costs of tobacco control measures to reduce smoking prevalence, such as mass media campaigns, cessation services and local authority enforcement to prevent illicit trade and underage sales.

The theme of World No Tobacco Day this year is tobacco and heart disease. The British Heart Foundation has been award the World No Tobacco Day medal for their long standing work tackling the harm caused by tobacco.

Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive of BHF said:

Smoking kills over 16,000 people in England every year from heart disease; a total of 20,000 across the UK. Many more people continue to live with smoking related heart problems. It is vital that tobacco control is properly funded, giving smokers the best chance to quit and preventing people from taking up smoking. A levy on tobacco companies would ensure there is sustained funding for tobacco control thus crucially help to drive down smoking rates.


[1] Action on Smoking and Health (ASH). Local Costs of Tobacco Tool. 2018.

[2] Agrawal S and Mangera Z. Smoking Cessation Audit Report: Smoking cessation policy and practice in NHS hospitals. British Thoracic Society. 2016.

[3] Smoking Still Kills, 2015 – this report produced by ASH and funded by Cancer Research UK and endorsed by 129 organisations, set out the case for making the ‘polluter pay’ and placing a levy on the tobacco industry to fund work to reduce the number of people who smoke.

[4] Branston JR, Gilmore AB. The extreme profitability of the UK tobacco market and the rationale for a new tobacco levy. University of Bath. 2015.