Smoking costs State ‘140 times’ more than it spends helping people to quit

Irish Heart Foundation says an average of 16 people a day died in 2017 as a result of habit

Smoking costs the State 140 times more each year than the amount spent trying to get people to give up the habit, the Irish Heart Foundation has said.

About €11.8 million was spent on smoking cessation measures including medications, services, the national quitline and media campaigns in 2017 while it was estimated that costs related to the impact of smoking totalled €1.65 billion.

The figures - based on a reply to a parliamentary question and an assessment of the economic cost of smoking in Ireland commissioned by the Department of Health - were published by the foundation on Wednesday, which is National No Smoking Day. The amount spent helping people to quit was less than 1 per cent of the almost €1.4 billion smokers paid in tobacco tax during 2017, it says.

"Nowhere near enough is being done to help the estimated 80 per cent of smokers who want to quit. Tax increases have played an important role in reducing smoking rates in Ireland but could be even more effective if a higher proportion of the proceeds was spent on cessation services," said Chris Macey, the foundation's head of advocacy.

“It isn’t fair to place a large additional tax burden on people because of their addiction to nicotine and then fail to invest properly in helping them overcome it when many are desperate to quit.”

Mr Macey said putting more resources into smoking cessation services would help to reduce the number of deaths from tobacco-related illness in Ireland, which he said was 16 per day.

“A single cigarette contains over 4,000 chemicals meaning that every time a smoker inhales, they are sucking in dangerous chemicals that are used in car batteries, rocket fuel and even rat poison.”

Separately, a study by researchers at Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) has found that "diversity is ostensibly lacking" in images used as part of the EU's Tobacco Products Directive.

Among 42 anti-smoking images used on cigarette packages and in campaigns, none “distinctly include” members of a racial or ethnic minority, they found.

“All visible models, or body parts of models, used in the campaigns are Caucasian.”

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times