The alleged cost of smoking was in the news yesterday and again today.
According to ASH "local authorities in England face a bill of £760m a year, up from £600m in 2012, to help people with smoking-related illness stay in their own homes (domiciliary care). Individuals also face a bill of about £630 million to cover the cost of their own care."
The report, published by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health (run by ASH), has inevitably sparked yet another demand for the government to publish its new tobacco control plan "without further delay".
It also provoked another pitiful plea for taxpayers' money to prop up England's stop smoking services despite the fact that the number of smokers using them has fallen dramatically in recent years.
And all this from a publicly-funded lobby group aided and abetted by a Conservative MP!
Bob Blackman MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health said:
“Evidence presented to the APPG on Smoking and Health shows that smoking is contributing to the current social care crisis. The situation will worsen if funding to local stop smoking services continues to be cut. Smoking is the leading cause of health inequalities in the UK so this puts at serious risk progress towards the Prime Minister’s ambition to reduce the burning injustice caused by inequality.
The new Tobacco Control Plan for England, published without further delay, will be crucial to ensuring that Government, the NHS and local Councils work together effectively to continue to tackle the harm caused by smoking.”
Meanwhile another study (reported today in the Sun and Star) claims that "treating smokers costs up to 2% of the world's annual wealth production, £1.14 trillion" worldwide.
Goodness knows how they came up with these figures but it's amazing what you can do with a creative imagination and a calculator.
The ASH research was largely ignored by the national media but thanks to a Press Association report (that included a quote from me) it featured widely in the regional press.
Anyway, this was Forest's full response to ASH and Bob Blackman:
Campaigners have rejected claims that smoking is adding to the "social care crisis".
Responding to research published today [Monday 30 January] by the taxpayer-funded lobby group ASH, Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ group Forest, said:
“To suggest that smoking is contributing to the social care crisis is nonsense.
“Smoking rates are at their lowest ever level yet smokers still contribute £12 billion a year in tobacco taxation, a sum that far exceeds the alleged cost of treating smoking-related diseases or providing social care to those suffering from a smoking-related illness.
“Councils are right to question or cut funding for stop smoking services. Since 2010 the number of people using stop smoking services in England has fallen by 51 per cent.
“Most smokers don’t need the state to help them quit. It's madness to spend taxpayers’ money on a resource that is no longer in demand when free market options like e-cigarettes are widely available and many smokers quit using willpower alone.
“The government should resist demands to publish a new tobacco control plan without further delay.
“It makes no sense to introduce a new tobacco control plan before the impact of interventions such as plain packaging, larger health warnings and the display ban has been independently reviewed.
“If the prime minister really wants a fairer Britain, as she claims, she should reject calls to continue this relentless war on eight million smokers.
“Millions of adults smoke and enjoy smoking. Further measures designed to denormalise smokers and their habit would be the clearest sign that Theresa May’s government is not as inclusive as it purports to be.”
I should also draw attention to Deborah Arnott's comment. The chief executive of ASH said:
“Smoking places an enormous pressure on our over stretched health and social care system, not to mention the many thousands of carers who spend their lives looking after loved ones.
We know that most local authorities remain committed to reducing smoking but key services are under threat from public health funding cuts. In some areas this is being made worse by a lack of engagement from NHS partners. Local and national action is urgently needed to ensure the continuity of support to help smokers quit.”
ASH will this this year receive £160,000 of public money from the Department of Health so if that's not an example of government lobbying government I don't know what is.
It's no surprise of course. Older readers may remember this – The state should stop giving anti-smoking groups public money to lobby the Government.
That was in October 2010. You read it here first.