Breaking cigarette

Making England completely smoke-free could free up £10.9 billion and provide substantial benefits to local economies, a new SARG study has shown.

The research, led by the University of Sheffield’s Addictions Research Group in collaboration with the University of Nottingham, reveals if everyone in the country quit smoking, the economic gain would equate to £1,776 per smoker or £246 per adult regardless of smoking status.

Our researchers have estimated what could go back into local economies if the money saved on smoking was spent locally. As local retailers already profit from the sale of tobacco products – at around seven per cent – the money going back into individual smokers’ pockets would be much higher.

The new study comes as the government is debating a smoke-free generation policy in parliament, which would mean it is illegal to sell cigarettes or other tobacco products to anyone born on or after 1 January 2009. This means that anyone aged 15 or under in 2024 will never legally be sold cigarettes or other tobacco products, even after they turn 18.

An opportunity to reduce socioeconomic inequalities

This substantial dividend underscores the considerable economic advantage of transitioning towards a smoke-free society. Notably, the study also found that areas with higher smoking prevalence and lower average incomes stand to benefit the most from smoking cessation efforts, offering an opportunity to reduce socioeconomic inequalities.

By prioritising tobacco control measures, especially in disadvantaged communities, policymakers can accelerate progress towards a smoke-free generation and could release the substantial economic benefits outlined in the study.

Dr Duncan Gillespie, Senior Research Fellow, said: “By reducing smoking rates and freeing up disposable income, policy makers have the opportunity to alleviate smoking-induced deprivation and empower individuals to redirect funds towards essential needs. This reallocation of resources can contribute to economic prosperity and help to reduce geographic inequalities in society.

“The overall money going back into smokers’ pockets would be higher, but we have focused on the maximum spending opportunities which would benefit local economies, if the money was spent within the local community.”

Compelling evidence of the economic advantages of creating a smoke-free generation

Lead author of the paper, Dr Damon Morris, said: “This study provides compelling evidence of the economic advantages of creating a smoke-free generation. Our findings underscore the potential for targeted tobacco control policies to alleviate financial burdens on households and promote economic prosperity.”

The new research, published in the journal Tobacco Control, is a milestone in the understanding of the economic implications of achieving a smoke-free generation.

Dr Tessa Langley from the University of Nottingham, said: “Until now, we did not know the potential scale of the economic benefits that local areas might get from investing in tobacco control policies. Our estimates add to the economic argument for investment in support to help people stop smoking.”

Research funding

The research was supported by the UK Prevention Research Partnership, an initiative funded by UK Research and Innovation Councils, the Department of Health and Social Care (England) and the UK devolved administrations, and leading health research charities.