EDGE Best Practice Series: The Cost of Smoking
5 minute read /
It is well understood that smoking is harmful to your health and beyond. Below, we will list some of the best-known reasons people decide to put down cigarettes for good, and the impacts smoking can, and will have on your health if you decide to continue the habit.
Smoking is the single biggest cause of preventable death in the UK, which according to the NHS (1) directly or indirectly causes around 75,000 deaths every year (equalling 200 deaths per day).
Aside from death, as many as one million UK residents suffer from a debilitating chronic disease, and 500,000 hospital admissions are caused as a direct effect of smoking. With over 7000 chemicals present in cigarette smoke, 69 of them are known to cause cancer (carcinogens), which impact both yourself and those around you when you smoke.
How Can Smoking Affect My Health?
Leading health organisations, including the NHS, state that smoking significantly increases your risk of developing over 50 serious health conditions, the most dangerous of which we discuss below. If you wish to read further around any of the topics we mention, see our resource list at the end of this blog.
Cancer is a highly debilitating condition where cells in a specific part of the body mutate, causing them to grow and reproduce uncontrollably. The cancerous cells can invade and destroy surrounding healthy tissue, including your organs.
Cancer sometimes begins in one part of the body before spreading to other areas. This process is known as metastasis.
One in two people will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime. According to the NHS, the four most common types are (1 & 2): breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer & bowel cancer.
The link between smoking and cancer is unavoidable, with seven out of every 10 cases of lung cancer being caused by smoking. In 2015 smoking caused 37,400 (3) (27%) of all circulatory disease related deaths.
Coronary Heart Disease (CHD)
CHD is a condition where fatty substances build up within crucial areas of your blood vessels. While CHD cannot be cured, the NHS cites stopping smoking and carrying out regular exercise as the most effective methods of reducing and managing the symptoms (5).
A heart attack is a serious medical emergency in which the blood supply to the heart is blocked, most commonly by a blood clot. According to the NHS, the leading cause of heart attacks in the UK is coronary heart disease (CHD as described above) with stopping smoking being the primary method of preventing CHD (6).
A stroke is a very serious medical condition which occurs when the brain’s blood supply is restricted, or cut-off. Strokes are considered a highly damaging medical emergency requiring immediate treatment. The NHS highlights not smoking as one of the four primary methods of avoiding the risk of having a stroke, alongside maintaining a healthy diet, and taking part in exercise. In 2015, smoking caused 16,400 (13%) of all circulatory disease related deaths (2,7,8).
Smoking damages the lungs over time, which impacts their ability to function normally. This can influence general movement and makes exercise challenging due to a reduced lung capacity. This reduces the amount of oxygen you can take in which is vital for proper muscle and organ functionality. It can also lead to conditions such as Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
COPD is the collective name for a group of lung conditions that cause breathing difficulties of varying severity. Many people can suffer from COPD for years without realising before their symptoms progress, and stopping smoking is essential to prevent the worsening of COPD symptoms. It is important to note that once damaged in this way the lungs can never fully recover (9,2,10).
The Hidden Costs of Smoking
Smoking’s health concerns are well known and obvious to many at this point in history, however there are a number of additional costs that are less obvious, and in some cases hidden. Being identified as a smoker can have a negative impact on how certain organisations and services are made available to you.
Taxation on tobacco products has steadily increased since the 1980s, with the government looking to continue increasing tax rates over the coming years. Due to this, smoking has rapidly become one of life’s most expensive habits. However, while it is widely accepted that cigarettes are expensive at a personal level, there are even steeper costs being paid by organisations like the NHS. This is because they are fighting to cope with the volume of patients admitted daily due to smoking-related illness, as well as the ongoing cost of care and treatment thereafter.
The known Cost
The NHS has created a handy tool to help you calculate your personal smoking expenditure, however here we will examine the cost of a light, average and heavy smoking habit as well as the amount of tar that would build up annually based on the consumption metrics. You can use this baseline to compare the cost of smoking with leading alternatives like vaping, patches, gums and other NRTs (nicotine replacement therapies).
We will base these examples on the current (2021) average UK cost of a packet of cigarettes (£9.91 (11)) over the course of 30 years, examining the cost at five-year intervals (12 see table below).
The data here speaks for itself. What could you achieve with this money if it was put in your hands today? Buy a house? A car? The only way to find out is to break the habit.
Smoking, in many cases, can more than double the cost of your insurance premiums. The frequency of your habit is of no consequence to policy providers, they do not care if you smoke one per day or forty, if you have smoked at all in the last 12 months, you will be considered a smoker.
Insurance companies make checks against applicants to discover if they are telling the truth about smoking and are likely to investigate medical history if a claim is made on a policy. If a person is found to have been dishonest in their application, it is likely the claim will be rejected.
The most common policy types to be impacted by your status as a smoker are:
Life and critical illness insurance: Research by moneysupermarket.com (13) reveals that a 30-year-old man with £150,000 worth of critical illness and life insurance could save, £9.90 per month, or £2,970 over the 25-year term if they made the decision to go smoke-free.
Home insurance: Many home insurers will increase the premium of anyone classed as a smoker. This is done to account for the significantly higher risk of domestic fire caused by occupying smokers, a well-known statistic in the public eye. It is worth noting however that depending on your insurance provider, being classed as a vaper often carries the same penalties as those who identify as a smoker, which can be an important factor when deciding the best alternative for your own lifestyle.
Careless driving: If faced with charges of dangerous or careless driving, smoking at the wheel will be deemed as an offence. If this is proven in court, you may face a fine in excess of £2,000 and a mandatory three to nine points on your driving license. This will not only increase your cost to insure the vehicle, but if six points are received during your first two years of driving, you will lose your licence.
Car insurance: Most insurers will charge you more for car cover if they know you are a smoker as they recognise it as a distraction at the wheel.
Car resale value: Signs of tobacco use in a car, be it stains, smells or burns can directly impact the list of factors that diminish the value of a vehicle.
Loss of earnings: From as far back as 2012, studies have showcased findings that smokers at that time were far more likely to have time off from work. This can be especially damaging to the livelihood of those who do not receive sick-pay entitlement. However recent research carried out by Landman Economics (2020) (15) and presented by leading charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) found that “smoking has a significant negative impact on individual earnings and employment prospects, with long-term smokers being 7.5% less likely to be employed than non-smokers and smokers earning, on average, 6.8% less than non-smokers.” The cumulative impact of these effects across the UK amounts to £14.1bn lost in income to smokers every year (16).
Making the Switch
If you are a smoker who is looking to experiment with vaping as an alternative to cigarettes, we’d like to offer our support. Head over to our Switch With EDGE area to discover more information and to find an alternative that suits your needs. Remember – vaping doesn’t have to be the answer, we want to support your journey not matter where it takes you.
If you want to learn about the most common alternatives to smoking and their effectiveness to support your decision making, check out the EDGE Practice Series: Which Alternative to Smoking is Best for Me?
- (NHS 2020: Statistics on Smoking, England 2020).
- (ASH 2020: Smoking Statistics, 2020).
- (ASH 2017: Smoking and Cancer, 2017).
- (ASH 2016: Smoking, the Heart and Circulation, 2016).
- (ASH 2015: Smoking and Respiratory Disease, 2015).