Fewer smokers than anywhere in Scotland, but it still costs NHS millions

Figures recently released by the Scottish Public Health Observatory show that the NHS Shetland area has the lowest incidence of smoking in Scotland. 
The figures show that the number of smokers in Shetland is lower than the Scottish average in all age groups, and for both sexes.

The low smoking prevalence is particularly marked for females and has been observed consistently over time. In addition, the percentage of women smoking during pregnancy is significantly lower than the Scottish average  (16 per cent compared with 20.9 per cent).

Rates for hospital admissions and deaths linked to smoking, lung cancer registrations and deaths, and the incidence of other pulmonary diseases and deaths are all “significantly” lower than the average for Scotland.

Estimates on the annual cost of smoking to NHS Shetland in 2009 ranged from £1.4 million to £ 2.2 million depending on the method of calculation.

MSP David Stewart said: “I applaud the hard work of NHS smoking cessation services, and I congratulate those who have succeeding in quitting smoking. The decision can lead to big changes in health and well being, all for the better.

“Smoking is one of the biggest public health challenges that we face in confronting a major cause of serious ill-health and death that can be prevented by choice. ASH Scotland have estimated that the wider cost of smoking to Scottish society includes loss of economic productivity – smokers take on average two to three days more days of  sickness absence than non-smokers.”



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  • John Tulloch

    • August 11th, 2013 8:45

    I have no knowledge of how these statistics are obtained however going on the above information plus a little digging, as usual, official “pc” figures don’t seem to stack up. Perhaps someone who knows can clear up my misconception which runs roughly:

    I don’t see the overall figure above however if, say, 15% of Shetlanders smoke that would give a total of 3,300 smokers. Let’ assume they average 20 cigs per day.

    That means they pay an additional £3.59 per day in tax on top of other taxes and NI.
    I.e. abour £25 per week or about £1250 per year.

    3300 smokers at £1250 per year equals a tax take of about £4 million per year.

    So, going by the above figures, Shetland smokers are net contributors to the government to the tune of about £2 million pounds per year.

    And unless smokers outlive predictions, the NHS doesn’t have to look after them later on when non-smokers are suffering from “Auld Timers’ Disease”.

    I suppose not allowing smoking anywhere in hospitals including the grounds is one way to empty the beds quickly.

    Shouldn’t smokers be commended instead of hounded “from pillar to post”?

  • Brian Smith

    • August 11th, 2013 9:23

    Another brilliant contribution from J. Tulloch (zzzz).

  • fraser cluness

    • August 11th, 2013 9:32

    Thats very interesting, can you do the calculation on how many bed nights ‘smokers’ spend in hospitail and how much that costs? How much cancer treatment is per dose? How many flights to hospitail, how many lost days at work? The list goes on and on.

    Saying they have paid the tax so they have earned the treatment isnt a good argument, especialy for the poor family that has to watch their lived ones pass away when they could have lived far longer.

    Looking at the number of young folk that start to smoke, some at High School, makes me wonder why? and who and where are they geting the fags from when it is elegal to sell them to under 16s for some time?

  • John Tulloch

    • August 11th, 2013 17:51

    Thanks Fraser for having the courtesy to put up an argument.

    I don’t need to calculate the bed nights and cancer treatment dosage costs, someone has done it for me in the article above and the top end of the cost range, “depending on the method used”, is £2.2 million per year.

    My “back of a fag packet” tax calculation shows Shetland smokers contribute around £4 million per year in tax on top of the other taxes paid by the rest of us, i.e. a net contribution to the tax man of at least, £1.8 million per year.

    I well know smoking is bad for us, I gave it up over 35 years ago on realising I could either play sport or smoke but not both. I made that choice myself, without anyone banning me from anywhere and (possibly – someone may explain my sum is wrong) conning me with false information about how much I was going to cost society later on.

    I also dislike the smell of smoke and, to a degree, smokers have brought some of the bans on themselves by their lack of consideration for others.

    If smoking is bad for us tell us that, that’s something we want from governments however if government tries to con people to do what government wants by disseminating false information – which they do all the time – then people find out and stop taking heed of what governments and politicians say.

    Just because it’s “for our own good” doesn’t make it OK for public authorities to peddle untruths.

    So the purpose of my comment was to establish – and I don’t know- whether Shetland smokers are a burden on the taxpayer or whether they are actually net contributors.

    If my sum is shown to be wrong I’ll be very pleased to learn I’m not being spun a yarn and I’ll go away and not mention it again.

  • David Spence

    • August 11th, 2013 18:49

    It would be interesting to make comparisons in regards to alcohol Fraser.

    I suspect the cost to society in terms of crime, robbery, assaults, disruptive behaviour, illegal selling, strain on the Emergency Services, Strain on the NHS, Strain on Social Services, Strain on the community….the lists goes on.

    Alcohol very much exceeds, probably by the billions, the cost in which society pays in regards to alcohol, but nobody mentions this in comparison to smoking.

    Alcohol has very much a bigger and detrimental affect towards not only the drinker, but the family, the NHS, Support Services and the Law.

    All the major soaps (entertainment for the ****** of society, all centered around a pub) and we are spoon fed the tripe of ‘ Oh, have a drink of alcohol if you are having problems in life ‘ pathetic mentality. What would the public say if ‘ Smoking was promoted in such a way ? ‘

  • fraser cluness

    • August 12th, 2013 11:49

    Good idea david! Say one thing smokers on the most do the damage to themselves, where the efects of alcohol can be far more reaching depending on the person that over does it and what they do when drunk.

  • Michael Garriock

    • August 12th, 2013 14:09

    @ John Tulloch. The main dispute I have with your calculations is that your allowance of income to Government through taxation of tobacco products is over-generously low.

    Given that indentical tobacco products to those available in any U.K. based retail outlet at prices in excess of £7.00/20 reportedly can be purchased for as little as £2.90/20 in some Duty Free outlets, I don’t think it would be in any way excessive to increase your per day/per smoker total by at least £0.50+.

  • Joe Johnson

    • August 12th, 2013 15:20

    I remember when I lived in Shetland in the 90s when I was at school, loads of kids were smokers and I remember it was very easy to gets fags and one shop in Lerwick (won’t name it) did not care who they sold fags to. have things changed now that the legal age to buy fags is now 18 and most shops and supermarkets ask for ID if you look under 25?


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