Introduction: will outline the general outlook of smoking,


Smoking is known to cause many health risks, it causes
around 90% of lung cancers1 as well as other cancers around the
body, and it is also one of the biggest causes of death and illness in the UK
with an estimate of 100,000 people dying from smoking every year1.
However many smokers seem to continue their dangerous habits in spite of being
advised and warned against the risks by health organisations such as NHS. It is
common facts that people are more likely to be cautious and take responsibility
of their health implications if they must sustain the costs for their health. This
raises questions on whether charging smokers for medical treatment would
somehow encourage smokers to give up smoking as well as benefit the NHS with
the extra funding’s from this or if this would be an ethically wrong decision
that would go against the morals of the NHS (which is to provide healthcare for
those who seek it rather than those able to pay for it). In this essay I will
outline the general outlook of smoking, the effects it has on the NHS as well
as the benefit and issues that may arise as a result of denying treatment for
smokers that are unable to pay.

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Costs of smoking on the NHS:

The National Health Service (NHS) is a service which
provides treatment free of charge for the whole UK population depending on the
needs of the patient rather than their finance. This means anyone who seeks
medical care within the UK is to be treated fairly regardless of their condition
or financial state. However as the NHS expands it faces more of a financial
crises2, leading people to question this regulation. Furthermore
with an estimate of 7.3 million current smokers as well as 14.8 million former
smokers in England (in 2015)3 is has led to costs adding up for the
NHS. Smoking has been linked to a wide range of cancers in places such as the
lungs, mouth, lips, voice box, oesophagus1 and more as well as a
range of different non-cancerous health issues including COPD (Chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease), Diabetes, Asthma, Strokes and more4,
all these add to the costs for the NHS, particularly those of chronic issues as
they must be dealt with for a longer time and require specialist equipment. The
most common estimate on how much the NHS spends on smokers is around £2.3bn2
however some say it is an underestimate and suggest smoking costs the NHS
anywhere between £3bn to £6bn for treatment but there is too much uncertainty
in estimates to rely on these bounds completely5 (in 2005/6). Many
deem smoking-related issues as ‘avoidable’ and highly costly to the NHS and
therefore agree that it would be fair if smokers where to be charged for the
use of the NHS. A survey by YouGov on 2000 people revealed that 62% of those
asked thought heavy smokers should pay for their healthcare6,
nevertheless although thousands of people from the public participated in this
survey and the results showed over a half agreed on charging smokers for
medical treatment, it may show a good overview however it is only a sample and
cannot be generalised everyone’s opinion in the UK.

Also these costs dismiss the amount of money smokers pay on
cigarette tax especially after it has been increased by a further 2% this year7
making the total tax collected from smokers being estimated around £12 billion5,
and because the NHS is mainly funded by tax some of that money contributes to
the NHS funding’s from the government. Some then might argue that smokers have
already paid their contributions to the NHS therefore them being forced to pay
extra for their healthcare would be unfair. However this argument cannot be
fully justified and accurate as it’s not certain how much of that tax collected
goes directly to the NHS.


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