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rising cost of cigarettes in the uk

The majority of smokers know that combustible cigarettes are bad for human health and the environment. Yet they often fail to consider the long-term effect of the habit on their finances. With concerns about higher prices and the cost of living growing in the United Kingdom, people who smoke combustible cigarettes and other tobacco products should consider the financial burden.

Cigarette Prices in the UK

According to a release by the Office for National Statistics about recent adult smoking habits, titled “Adult smoking habits in the UK: 2021,” approximately 6.6 million people smoke combustible cigarettes. Although this is the lowest population of smokers on record, the average smoker continues to burn away large amounts of cash by inhaling approximately 5 to 15 combustible cigarettes every day.

A Statista survey in 2022 of 1,201 consumers found that 27% of those surveyed smoked between six and 10 combustible cigarettes per day. Another 27% smoked between 11 and 20 combustible cigarettes per day, 6% smoked between 21 and 30 per day, and 1% smoked 31 or more per day (61% total). As a result, more than half of the respondents inhaled a packet of 20 combustible cigarettes within no more than three days.

Early in 2023, smokers throughout the UK learned that the Spring Budget included an increase of 2% above the Retail Price Index (RPI) of 10.1% for every type of tobacco product and 6% above the RPI for hand-rolled tobacco. By March, smokers faced an increase of 95 pence for 20 combustible cigarettes, 63 pence for pipe tobacco (30g packet), 48 pence for cigars (10g packet), and £1.75 for the tobacco (30g packet) used in hand-rolled combustible cigarettes. Additionally, the Minimum Excise Tax (MET) increased up to 3% above the RPI.

What do all these numbers mean in terms of long-term costs? An average packet of 20 combustible cigarettes cost £12.84 in January 2023, per the Office for National Statistics. The average price increased to £14.39 by March. This means that it’s likely that more than half of the smokers in the UK spend at least £14.39 every three days.

Additional Costs of Cigarette Smoking

Cancer Research UK notes that scientists have traced 15 unique forms of cancer to the act of smoking tobacco. Smoking-related cancer can affect the bladder, blood cells, bowel, cervix, kidney, larynx, liver, lungs, nasopharynx, oesophagus, pancreas, pharynx, oral cavity, ovaries and stomach. The National Health Service credits it with causing long-term damage and “more than 50 serious health conditions,” including heart disease, stroke, vascular disease and lung damage.  

The NHS refers to smoking as one of the top causes of major illness and death in the UK. Tens of thousands of people die every year from conditions related to smoking. As of 2022, approximately 76,000 people had died from it. These numbers primarily reflect the outcomes of active smokers. Passive smokers, children and adults who breathe secondhand smoke, also face avoidable health problems. They’re at higher risk of experiencing cancer, asthma, pneumonia, coughing and ear infections. Pregnant women who smoke or experience steady secondhand smoke can experience miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth or a low-weight baby. Smoking and secondhand smoke increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Every health issue or death costs money. Beyond the cost of taxation, which allows smokers to burden the public healthcare system and increase the cost of care for everyone, a personal financial burden exists as well. Major health problems adversely impact smokers, their loved ones and even their employers. Smoking takes a toll on both the body and savings.

The Best Alternative Option to Smoking Cigarettes

The cost of smoking has never been higher. Although the COVID-19 pandemic and a greater focus on everyday health helped decrease the number of smokers in the UK, millions of people still struggle with addiction to combustible cigarettes. Worse, they harm more than themselves. They also harm everyone who breathes in their smoke. The financial toll adds unnecessary stress to households that often face higher stress levels related to housing costs and unemployment.

The NHS recommends e-cigarettes or vaping pens as the best current alternatives to combustible cigarettes. Smokers can enjoy better outcomes for themselves and others and decrease all UK cancer and mortality numbers by switching to e-cigarettes, which cost a lot less than their tobacco counterparts. E-cigarettes offer many benefits:

– Provide nicotine without tobacco burning

– No or low toxic chemical levels

– No associated tar or carbon monoxide

Disposable and rechargeable options

– Wide variety of flavours

E-cigarettes are also available in an extensive range of styles that mimic combustible products, including standard vape pens, vape bars, cigalikes and pod devices. 

The NHS reports that e-cigarettes even improve quitting outcomes. People who stop smoking combustible tobacco products and switch to e-cigarettes and vaping are up to two times more likely to achieve their desired goals than people who use nicotine gum and patches.

The cost-benefit stands out as well. An average disposable vape pen in 2023 costs approximately half as much as a packet of 20 combustible cigarettes. Since the liquid often contains less nicotine and provides thousands of puffs, a smoker can alleviate and gradually decrease their nicotine cravings while continuing to enjoy sensations related to holding the pen and inhaling the vapour. For example, a 75-ml bottle of liquid for a rechargeable pen costs well below the price of a packet of 20 combustible cigarettes. A single bottle can cost as little as £2.99 before a small amount of tax.