Smokers in Scotland’s most deprived areas spend over £1 million per day on tobacco
One percentage point reduction in smoking prevalence would lead to huge financial benefits
Annual savings would be around £13 million
We’ve all heard the mantra that quitting smoking is good for your wallet as well as your health.
But what are the hard figures in pounds and pence that go up in smoke when tobacco users light up?
We’ve done our own calculations, by estimating spend on tobacco by people living in the 20% most deprived areas in Scotland as measured by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation.
The figures, from 2011, show there are about a third of a million adult smokers living in the poorest 20% of areas of the nation.
So what would be the financial benefits of a small drop in smoking prevalence among them?
Well, let’s take a one percentage point fall as an example – going from 38% average smoking prevalence in these areas (as was the case in 2011) to 37% the following year.
In 2011, there were over 300,000 smokers in the 20% most deprived areas, with approximately two-thirds of them using filter cigarettes and the rest hand-rolled tobacco (HRT) (data taken from the General Lifestyle Survey).
Three-quarters of women smokers prefer filter to roll-your-own, compared with about 60 per cent of men.
In Scotland, we know from the Scottish Health Survey that the average number of cigarettes smoked per day is about 15 in the most disadvantaged 20% of areas – which is more than in the best-off areas where the average is under 13 cigarettes per day.
But not all are bought at full price.
There is, of course, a proportion of the tobacco that comes from the black market – HMRC provide estimates for this in the UK. Because illicit tobacco might be higher in poorer areas, we’ll use HMRC’s ‘upper’ estimates and assume about 12% of filter cigarettes and more than 40% of HRT are illicit.
Doing calculations assuming we were in 2011 (the year the rest of the data was from) we put a price on 20 legal filter cigarettes of £6.63 and the equivalent in illicit tobacco about half that at £3.32. For HRT, the cost of 25g was £7.50 if legal and £3.75 if illicit.
So enter all of that into the calculator and what do you get?
Some pretty startling figures for a reduction of just one percentage point in smoking prevalence.
A 1 percentage point drop in smoking prevalence means about 9,000 fewer smokers, who’d collectively save about £35,000 per day on their cigarettes and hand-rolled tobacco.
Each day, the 5,000 legal cigarette purchasers would be better off in total by over £26,000 while the 1700 legal HRT smokers would have a combined £5,000 extra in their pockets.
The illicit users would save about £3500 altogether.
That adds up to a total annual saving of about £13 million as the collective benefit to all those people in the poorest 20% of society for that one percentage point reduction in smoking rates.
So, if there’s usually a cigarette between your lips, it pays not to put your money where your mouth is.