News Releases
Calculation that smoking costs society £17bn a year “absurd”

Forest has rejected as “absurd” the claim that smokers cost society £17 billion a year, £5 billion more than previously estimated.

Dismissing the calculation, published today [Friday January 14] by the anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ lobby group Forest, said:

“The suggestion that smokers are a significant economic burden on society is absurd.

“More than 80 per cent of the cost of tobacco in the UK is tax and the revenue from the sale of legal tobacco is almost £10 billion a year. That’s a fact.

“In contrast, the contrived claim that smoking costs society £17 billion is based on nothing more than estimates and calculations.”

He added:

“As well as making a huge contribution to the public purse, smokers make a significant contribution to the local economy because without the money they spend on tobacco many village shops and convenience stores would lose a regular source of income.

“The health risks of smoking are well known. If adults choose to smoke that’s a matter for them not government. Ministers must remember that and not be swayed by exaggerated claims about the cost of smoking to society.”

Simon Clark

Mission & Vision



Forest’s mission is to protect the interests of adults who choose to smoke or consume tobacco.


Our key aims and objectives are to:

  • counteract the “denormalisation” of smoking, and smokers
  • prevent further restrictions on the purchase and consumption of tobacco
  • establish closer links with other tobacco-friendly groups at home and abroad
  • build support among consumers of tobacco and other similarly threatened groups
  • highlight the increasingly intrusive nature of Big Government in the lives of private individuals