How much does smoking cost the NHS? So many figures get bandied around that I'm never sure, but I think it's claimed to be about £3 billion, or under a third of the revenue take from cigarette sales.
Smoking cuts the risk of Alzheimer's. The study is about 20 years old and if I can find it, assuming it hasn't been expunged from history, I'll post a link. It could be due to nicotine's effects in the brain or it could simply be that fewer smokers get old enough to suffer it. Either is fine with me. If clinging to a few more years of life means thinking I'm a boiled egg and living in terror of teaspoons, I don't want it.
The thing is, dementia (including Alzheimer's) is soon going to cost the NHS £23 billion a year. Cancer costs £12 billion and heart disease £8 billion. That's all cancers and all heart disease, not just the much hyped 'smoking' ones. The smoking ones are around a tenth of that total.
So let's recap. Smoking costs £3 billion but brings in £10 billion. If we all stop smoking the NHS gains £3 billion but loses £10 billion, a net loss of £7 billion.
Cancer and heart disease costs will drop from £20 billion to over £17 billion (there are so many smoking-related diseases now, not just cancer, that the effect of all smokers stopping on total cancer rates would be negligible).
But wait, there's more.
Two million smokers will get older than they would have. Pension costs will go up. Old age care costs will go up. More hip replacements, more false teeth, more of every illness of old age.
That projected £23 billion cost for dementia will also go up.
So all this 'cost of smoking' argument is looking pretty thin. Aside from the lost revenue, the effect of removing 'smoking-related' from the list of diseases will have a negligible effect on their total cost and the cost of dementia care will increase too.
Overall, the NHS gets a good deal out of smokers. We cost one-tenth of the price of those healthy people who live to a ripe old age, even though they've forgotten why. We pay in three times as much as we cost, but there's no tax on dementia so they pay in nothing above the NI and tax we smokers also pay.
So can we lay to rest the 'smokers cost us money' nonsense at least? I know the more rabid antismokers will still complain about 'the smell' which they can't possibly experience indoors anyway any more, but at least stop pretending you're subsidising our healthcare.
The fact is, we're subsidising yours.