Smoking costs global economy over $1 trillion every year

Not only do cigarettes cause six million annual deaths – and rising – they hit healthcare and productivity hard around the world...

Smoking costs global economy over $1 trillion every year

File photo. Image: Martin Rickett / PA Wire/Press Association Images

The negative effects of smoking drain the global economy of more than $1 trillion annually, dwarfing the take from tobacco taxes.

A new study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the US National Cancer Institute estimates that roughly $269 billion in tax revenues was taken in 2013/14. This figure only takes care of roughly one-quarter of the expense of healthcare and lost productivity.

It is expected that these economic costs will continue to climb.

The study, peer-reviewed by more than 70 scientific experts, said:

"Government fears that tobacco control will have an adverse economic impact are not justified by the evidence. The science is clear; the time for action is now."

The number of deaths as a result of smoking is only increasing, projected to climb from the current six million per year to eight million by 2030. Increasingly, it is becoming a problem most commonly found in less affluent nations.

Over 80% of the projected 30 million deaths will occur in low and middle-income countries, as four in five smokers live in these nations. The total number of smokers worldwide is also rising, despite it becoming less prevalent around the world. It remains the single biggest preventable cause of death globally, according to health experts.

When it comes to combating the problem, WHO estimates that governments spent less than $1 billion on tobacco control in 2013/4.

The report recommends that countries hike taxes and prices, and put in place comprehensive smoke-free policies as well as complete bans on tobacco company marketing and prominent picture warnings on labels.

It also suggests that taxes be used for anti-tobacco media campaigns and to support cessation treatments and services.

In December, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Ireland revealed that nearly 6,000 people died in Ireland as a result of smoking last year. Tobacco use costs the State in excess of €1.6 billion ever year. Some €506m of that is spent directly on healthcare.