The cost of smoking in 2016 2

ASH Scotland Policy and Communications Officer Ruaraidh Dobson blogs for us about what smoking costs people that want to quit.

The price of tobacco changes on a regular basis, sometimes due to excise increases but often because the tobacco industry wants to pad its pockets. So, we would expect the cost of smoking to have changed since we last explored this issue in 2015.

A few key numbers. The Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association regularly reports a figure for the recommended retail price of a packet of 20 cigarettes in the “most popular price category”: £9.40. Bear in mind that this is referred to as a “pre-budget” figure, despite the fact that the UK budget is long past. Standards may be slipping at Big Tobacco – perhaps because they’re having trouble recruiting good staff? In any case, it means that the price of one cigarette is around £0.47.

But tobacco doesn’t come only in pre-made cigarette form. Hand-rolling tobacco makes up 36% of the cigarette market, according to the Office for National Statistics. There’s no industry-endorsed figure for the price of a rollie, but 25g of Amber Leaf was £9.35 at Sainsbury’s in north Edinburgh at time of writing. We can take that as a starting point and, as we know that 25g of rolling tobacco is roughly equivalent to 40 cigarettes, we can estimate that one roll-up cig costs about £0.23.

That’s about right for legal cigarettes, but illicit, untaxed tobacco will presumably be cheaper. First we need to know how widespread the use of illegal tobacco is. The best available Government figures suggest that around 10% of pre-rolled cigarettes and 35% of hand-rolling tobacco are illicit in the UK. That reflects a general trend towards a smaller illicit market over the last 15 years – although it’s still far too high.

For obvious reasons, it’s difficult to get an accurate figure for the price of illicit tobacco, and it’s logical to assume that it varies widely. But some individuals who have been asked have asserted that illegal tobacco is about half the price of a duty-paid packet bought in a shop. So let’s take that as a good estimate, meaning that a single illicit cigarette costs about £0.235 and a cig’s worth of illicit hand-rolling tobacco costs about £0.115.

If we combine these figures, we can estimate the cost of the average cigarette: £0.35. That means that twenty cigarettes will cost an average of £7.08 – a 68p increase on this time last year.

But what does that mean in economic terms for a smoker? We know that the average figure for cigarettes smoked per day is 12.6. That means that the “average smoker” in Scotland will spend £4.46 per day on the habit – or £1,626 every year.

Since around 21% of the adult population of Scotland smokesabout 937,000 people – we can say that Scots spend more than £1.5 billion a year on tobacco. More than two thirds of Scottish smokers want to quit, which means that smoking inflicts huge costs on an unwilling population – with £1 billion every year taken just from Scottish smokers who want to quit.

For further information please contact ASH Scotland on 0131 225 4725 or


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