Pressure on smokers mounts as health costs revealed

Maya Driver

While British smokers continue to adjust to puffing outside pubs through all manners of inclement weather the pressure to give up just keeps on mounting. The latest blow to the smoking public could soon arrive in the form of yet more tax rises.

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Think tank Policy Exchange has today revealed that every cigarette smoked in Britain will ultimately cost the taxpayer 6.5p in health costs and loss of productivity. And with this in mind it has called for a sizeable five per cent increase come next week's budget. For the smokers among you that means an extra 23p on a pack of 20 and that won't be the end of it.

The think tank is also urging further rises over the course of the next five years which could eventually see tobacco lovers paying a whopping £7.42 a pack. This money, says Policy Exchange, could be put to good offering pregnant smokers a £10-a-week "reward" for quitting.

Researchers say that, though tax on tobacco brought in £10 billion each year, the cost of dealing with the fallout totalled £13.74 billion. Included in that total is £2.7 billion of healthcare, £2.9 billion lost to workers taking cigarette breaks, £342 million spent clearing up after smokers and £507 million putting out accidental fires.

The extra £10 million in revenue could, the research said, be spent on more, already fairly prominent, media campaigns urging people to quit as well as incentives and quitting aids such as the Champix pill (currently only prescribed to one in five smokers).

There's just one problem – with many smokers already feeling like social outcasts, will all this increased pressure merely cause them to dig in their heels?