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In the run-up to the recent vote to make all public places in England smoke-free, there were frequent, often strident assertions from those who were fighting for tobacco rather than health, that the move would have no effect on consumption. But as health campaigners were celebrating the victorious parliamentary vote, commercial institutions were busy assessing the likely long term effects on the economy. Research by human resources firm Hewitt Associates estimated that the ban could add up to £20 billion (US$35 billion) to UK pension deficits, as well as increasing the annual cost to companies providing defined benefit schemes.
No doubt the tobacco industry will continue to plead no effect in other countries contemplating a total ban, and health ministers and other prime movers would be well advised to consult their financial institutions, as well as their medical and health experts, to at least cut down the time wasted by false arguments by desperate tobacco interests. As with any aspect of tobacco control policy, effectiveness is proportional to the volume of industry protest.
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