Smoking costs UK’s NHS £5billion

(BBC) Smoking costs Britain’s National Health Service five times as much as previously thought, researchers have calculated.

Treating disease directly caused by smoking produces medical bills of more than £5 billion (US$8.1 million) a year in the UK.

In 2005, smoking accounted for almost one in five of all deaths and a significant amount of disability, the Oxford University team said.

The British Heart Foundation who funded the research said tighter regulations were needed on the sale of tobacco.

The figure of £5bn in 2005-06 equates to 5.5% of the entire NHS budget.

Previous estimates have put the burden of smoking on the NHS at £1.4bn to £1.7bn, the researchers reported in Tobacco Control.

But these were based on data from 1991 and because such studies are complicated to carry out, it has not been updated.

For the latest analysis researchers took into account data from the World Health Organization study of what proportion of a disease is caused by risk factors such as smoking, NHS costs and UK deaths from smoking-related diseases.

They calculated that in 2005, smoking was responsible for 27% of deaths among men and around one in 10 among women, a figure that has not changed much in the past decade.

When looking at the costs to the NHS, they calculated that treating cancer caused by smoking costs 0.6bn a year and cardiovascular diseases cost 2.5bn a year.

Long-term lung conditions cost £1.4bn.

Underestimate

This annual cost is still likely to be an underestimate, they say, because it does not include indirect costs, such as lost productivity and informal care, the costs of treating disease caused by passive smoking, or the full range of conditions associated with smoking.

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