Healthy and wealthy – the whys Reply

The message that stopping smoking is a great way to save money is getting more attention in public health circles, and for good reason. The links between income and health inequalities are clear but this blog sets out to calculate just how much can be gained by taking the two together.

In a related piece we show that the average price of a cigarette is 32 pence (calculated October 2015), which works out as £2,300 a year for a 20-a-day smoker . This allows us to quantify the financial impact of tobacco use, and to glimpse the benefits from promoting stopping smoking as an anti-poverty measure.

The Scottish Household Survey presents a breakdown of the smoking rate by Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) group – ranging from 9% in SIMD 5 (least deprived) to 34% in SIMD 1 (most deprived). It also indicates that smokers in Scotland use an average of 13.4 cigarettes a day. So that makes £4.29 a day, or an average of around £1500 a year (£4.29 times 365.25).

Scotland’s adult population, aged 20 and over, is 4,184,070 – equating to 836,814 in each of the 5 SIMD groups. If 1% of these adults in SIMD 1 stops smoking (moving the prevalence from 34% to 33%) that means 8,368 fewer people in this group smokes, resulting in a saving of £12.5million every year (8368 times £1500).

So reducing the smoking rate presents an unmissable opportunity to tackle poverty, with every 1% reduction in the smoking rate providing an extra £12.5 million in disposable income to those in the most deprived SIMD group. Achieving the 5% smoking rate identified by the Scottish Government would deliver 29 of these steps, so that the poorest 20% in Scotland would be £360million better off every year.

The sooner we put reducing smoking at the heart of the anti-poverty agenda the better.

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