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Modelling the implications of reducing smoking prevalence: the benefits of increasing the UK tobacco duty escalator to public health and economic outcomes

Abstract

Introduction Taxing tobacco is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking prevalence, mitigate its devastating consequential health harms and progress towards a tobacco-free society. This study modelled the health and economic impacts of increasing the existing cigarette tobacco duty escalator (TDE) in the UK from the current 2% above consumer price inflation to 5%.

Methods A two-stage modelling process was used. First, a non-linear multivariate regression model was fitted to cross-sectional smoking data, creating longitudinal projections from 2015 to 2035. Second, these projections were used to predict the future incidence, prevalence and cost of 17 smoking-related diseases using a Monte Carlo microsimulation approach. A sustained increase in the duty escalator was evaluated against a baseline of continuing historical smoking trends and the existing duty escalator.

Results A sustained increase in the TDE is projected to reduce adult smoking prevalence to 6% in 2035, from 10% in a baseline scenario. After increasing the TDE, only 65% of female and 60% of male would-be smokers would actually be smoking in 2035. The intervention is projected to avoid around 75 200 new cases of smoking-related diseases between 2015 and 2035. In 2035 alone, £49 m in National Health Service and social care costs and £192 m in societal premature mortality and morbidity costs are projected to be avoided.

Conclusion Increasing the UK TDE to 5% above inflation could effectively reduce smoking prevalence, prevent diseases and avoid healthcare costs. It would deliver substantial progress towards a tobacco-free society and should be implemented by the UK Government with urgency.

  • cessation
  • economics
  • end game
  • prevention
  • taxation
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