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« Spot the difference | Main | A small step for liberty, a giant leap for Forest Eireann »

ASH Scotland: the cost of smoking

According to a new "economic report" published today by ASH Scotland, the costs of tobacco in Scotland each year are estimated at:

  • £271m in direct NHS costs of treating smoking-attributable disease
  • £692m in productivity losses due to excess absenteeism, smoking breaks and lost output due to premature death
  • £60m in lost output to premature deaths due to second-hand smoke in the home
  • £34m in cleaning cigarette litter from the streets
  • £12m in fires caused by smoking in commercial properties

The BBC has the story HERE, including a quote from me. Ditto the Scotsman HERE.

I am reminded, when I read these fanciful statistics, of comments made by the the late Lord Harris, chairman of Forest, 1987-2006. Ralph's great love (apart from his wife and his pipe!), was the Institute of Economic Affairs which he ran from 1957-1988, becoming founder president in 1990.

In 2005, in a booklet published by Forest entitled Smoking Out The Truth: A Challenge to the Chief Medical Officer, Ralph wrote:

Sticking with dubious economics, [the CMO's] 2004 annual report further claims that smokefree workplaces would bring annual benefits of up to £2,700 million. Although he dismisses any testimony from the tobacco industry as tainted, he relies on the Department of Health’s own staff obligingly to serve up figures from unrevealed sources on such ‘costs’ as smoking-related absenteeism (£70-140 million), smoking breaks (£430 million), and ‘health benefits’ (precisely £2,171million).

On top of such wild estimates of benefits, his tame economists conjure up two disbenefits: one hard-looking figure of £1,145 million as lost tax to the Exchequer (presumably from an assumed reduction in cigarette sales), and another wholly esoteric invention of ‘loss of satisfaction’ to smokers (£700 million). I would not embarrass the CMO by asking how seriously he expects us to take such home-produced figures on the benefits of banning smoking!

If Ralph was alive today I am sure he would have something similar to say about ASH Scotland's "dubious economics". Meanwhile I will not embarrass chief executive Sheila Duffy by asking how seriously she expects us to take these latest calculations on the benefits of tobacco control in Scotland.

Smoking Out The Truth is available via the Recommended Reading page of the Forest website.

Up in Smoke: The cost of tobacco in Scotland is available HERE.

Reader Comments (12)

The problem we have here, is that as silly and pathetic as these figures are, they will be believed wholeheartedly by the majority of the British public.

If allowed to go unchallenged, they will only fester and grow into a cancerous growth on the minds of the British people, which, the longer it is left will end in the death of the tobacco industry, the hospitality industry, and the rights of at least one quarter of the population of this country.

We already have children being indoctrinated in schools to believe in whatever our poor educational system drums into their heads. Things such as Global Warming, Animal Rights, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, the EU, the Smoking Ban, etc., etc... We have 12 year old kids today who because of bad teachers, cannot write their own name and have a minimal knowledge of the 3 Rs, yet they purport to know what is going on regarding the above mentioned rubbish. They are led to believe that "teacher" knows best, and "teacher's thoughts should never be questioned.

Everything should be questioned, everything should be openly debated, and that is the only way we are going to win this war with ASH and suchlike, these oppressors of our freedom. They must be challenged to an open debate, where both sides are free to put forward their argument, and present what facts they have on this issue. If figures such as ASH have just published are intended to represent the truth, then they need to prove this as a fact, and not just as figures plucked from the air.

One of ASH's great phrases is "research shows that the great majority of the public now agree wholeheartedly with the ban". How on earth have they been allowed to get away with saying this for so long? It is akin to doing a poll at a turkey farm, and saying "research shows that the great majority of turkeys eagerly look forward to Christmas". Absolutely ridiculous.

As the voice of the tobacco industry and the voice of the smoker, FOREST is the only body in the UK who could and should be challenging ASH's ridiculous and dangerous statements such as this. How about it Simon, if they agree, then I am sure we will have the winning hand, if they refuse to take part, it will surely show them up the general public, as the cheats and liars we have known them to be all along?

November 10, 2010 at 10:47 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

it looks like Duffy is assuming that Scotland's population and costs/savings are 10% of England and Wales, hence:

£271 million cost to NHS means £1 billion in cigarette receipts.

Her £692 million figure is highly questionable. Considering that if you combine the average age of death of smokers to both sexes the figure is 73.5 years. Shelia the retirement age is 65 for men and 60 for women.

Fires and litter are equally questionable.

£60 SHS = junk science

The tobacco industry directly and indirectly employs 80,000 people and if we assume the average salary is £30k then income tax and NI receipts should be in excess of £500 million.

Shelia's having a laugh.

November 10, 2010 at 10:55 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

As a sort of p.s to my piece (above), I am in the midst of going over some work I have been doing about the history of London's streets, and the street I am now reworking is "Old Jewry".

You might think that this has nothing to do with the subject in question, but as I re-read my earlier writing, I noticed a strong similarity. The piece I am talking about took place in the late 1200s, and involved the methods used by one man against a whole section of society, in this case, the Jews, in order to make himself rich. He made up ridiculous statements and allegations about these people, and was left completely unchallenged, due mainly to his close connections with Parliament.

I am sure that if this character "Fitz-John" were alive today, he would be a leading light in ASH, or perhaps would have set up his own organisation, akin to ASH, and would be targeting smokers instead of Jews. I have taken this small extract from this story, see below:

Not everyone was as anti-Semitic as Fitz-John and his followers, in fact several towns where Jews resided, set up groups of officials or policemen, to protect them from the insults of pilgrims. This was not to the liking of Fitz-John, as by this time, the Jews were his main source of income. He started whipping up stories about them, one of which claimed that a local London man was treated by a Jewish physician, who unfortunately failed to cure him. The physician was accused of murdering the sick man, and plotting to steal his house and all his possessions. He also accused four Jews of murdering a young boy, in order to anoint their fellow Israelites and to raise the devil with his blood. The more ridiculous the accusation the more eagerly they were believed by a superstitious and frightened rabble. Probably the most bizarre story he came up with was when the corpse of a child was found buried in London, Fitz-John alleged that the child was a Christian, on whose arms and legs were traced Hebrew inscriptions. The allegations were that the Jews had crucified this child, in revenge for the crucifixion of Christ.

November 10, 2010 at 11:42 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

Why does nobody come up with counter claims as to the cost of the smoking ban, ie the amounts that pub closures cost both to the Exchequer in lost tax on alcohol. The cost in unemployment benefit caused by lay offs in the hospitality industry. The tax losses due to black market tobacco. The cost to businessof smokers leaving the workplace to have a ciggy. The Cost to the NHS for smoking cessation products that do not work. And i am sure there are many more that I have not mentioned. But I bet all those added together plus the public funding of ASH would make Duffy's figures look minute.

November 10, 2010 at 12:12 | Unregistered CommenterTony

Tony, also the loss of income from tourism due to the fact that so many smokers never holiday in this country but spend their money elsewhere and I,m sure that many foreigners now refuse to come here.

November 10, 2010 at 12:48 | Unregistered Commentersheila


Spains going to be interesting, i'm never going back there!

Pity, I quite enjoy Barcelona.

November 10, 2010 at 13:55 | Unregistered CommenterPaul1666

What I find maddening is the methodology employed in the basic reasoning. Some years back, my Uncle ended his life... his suicide was ruled "Smoking Related" (there is a box on US death certificates to indicate this), since his pipe and tobacco were among his personal effects... Under the methodology employed, it seems, if you are run over by a bus on your way to the shop to buy tobacco, your death is not smoking related, but if you are run over by a bus as you leave the shop, yours is a "smoking related death". Economic estimates based on wild guess methodologies like this are simple fraud.

November 10, 2010 at 14:40 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Suicides up:

Self harm up:

Fewer quitters:

More people using 'quit' products that reduce chances of quitting (cold turkey is more effective than NRT):

Social inequalities getting worse.

Yep, the tobacco control industry is great value for money.

November 10, 2010 at 16:21 | Unregistered CommenterKate

what really gets my goat is so many of the papers just regurgitate all these press releases in full. I thought journalism was meant to question assumptions and hold people to account (I'm a qualified journalist).

November 10, 2010 at 16:45 | Unregistered CommenterMark Butcher

interesting maths, you may think ash would take the trouble to check the viability of the calculations with the statements made within the body of the article. maybe not the public has been convinced that smoking is evil so they no longer look for the truth

November 11, 2010 at 2:02 | Unregistered Commenteralan trinder

"not the public has been convinced that smoking is evil so they no longer look for the truth."

Sorry to disillusion you, Alan - but the Public do not (in the main) look FOR The Truth. They look AT (what they are conditioned from infancy to believe is) The Truth. And Why should they even bother - when there are SO many others better qualified (?) than they to do the looking for them ? Hence the shit we're in.

The real enemy of Freedom these days is not Tyranny. It's sheer bloody lethargy ... produced by mis-directed energies. Child's play, really.

November 13, 2010 at 23:23 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Reasonable point Martin. For me it is the belief the ill-informed have that they are right that is a challenge, the sheer unwillingness to consider an argument.

November 14, 2010 at 1:51 | Unregistered Commenteralan trinder

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