Smoking lowering London's productivity and hitting capital's economy by £2.6bn a year

The new analysis also shows that smokers lose a large part of their income to tobacco – an estimated £1.9bn in London each year, or on average £2,451 per smoker. Credit: PA

Smoking is costing London £2.6bn a year according to new figures, as campaigners call for a levy on big tobacco companies.

The biggest cost to smokers and the wider economy was smoking-related ill-health, with smokers facing job losses and reduction in wages as a result of their habit, as well as being more likely to die prematurely, economic analysis commissioned by charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) found.

The new analysis also shows that smokers lose a large part of their income to tobacco - an estimated £1.9bn in London each year, or on average £2,451 per smoker.

Smoking is still the leading cause of preventable ill-health and death in the country and has a significant impact on health and social care costs.

There are 792,000 smokers in London, according to the figures, costing the capital £3bn in loss of productivity and healthcare, social care and fire costs, the report found.

Smoking-related hospital admissions and primary care treatments cost £242.3m yearly, while it costs local authorities in London £125.7m each year on care for smoking-related illnesses in later life.

Productivity losses, including smoking-related ill-health and loss of earnings, totaled £2.6bn.

The figures show:

  • £1.3bn lost to smoking-related unemployment.

  • £1.1bn lost to smoking-related lost earnings.

  • £175.3m in smoking-related early deaths.

ASH and health campaigners around the country are urging the government to bring in a "polluter pays" levy on tobacco companies that would be used for prevention and treatment.

A package of measures aimed at driving smoking rates down below 5% by 2030 was introduced by ministers in April.

But experts and campaigners say the announcements do not go far enough and spending on tobacco control could cost the economy billions.

Last month, leading health charities and medical Royal Colleges said current spending is only “around a quarter of the investment needed” for the government to achieve its smoke-free ambition.

Tracy Parr, programme director at London Tobacco Alliance and Stop Smoking London said the latest figures were a "stark reminder of the devastating impact smoking".

"The tobacco industry makes billions of pounds in profit while smokers and their families suffer.

"Collective action against tobacco dependence holds the potential to make a profound difference in curbing smoking-related harm by boosting prevention and treatment efforts, creating a healthier, more vibrant future for London," she said.

Deborah Arnott, 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.

“Recent announcements by public health minister will not be enough to meet the government’s ambition for England to be smoke free 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.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are committed to achieving our ambition to be smokefree by 2030 and recently announced new measures including a national ‘swap to stop’ vaping scheme, financial incentives to help pregnant women to quit, and a consultation on the introduction of mandatory cigarette pack inserts to give information on the benefits of quitting smoking, and the available support.

“Backed by £58 million over the next two years, our new plans will help even more people to quit smoking – saving lives and cutting NHS waiting times in the process.”

If you smoke in London, you can search 'stop smoking London' to find free local help to quit. You're three times as likely to quit successfully with the support of your local stop smoking service than if you try to quit on your own.

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