The Guardian is the best paper we have here, but it still publishes the odd bit of rubbish dressed up as science. On Tuesday 9.6., it proclaimed "Smoking costs NHS £ 5bn a year" (page 11 of main section). If you think about this for a second, it certainly doesn't. Treating smokers may cost this amount, but if none of these people had ever smoked, they would still get ill and die, just with different diseases at later times. In a cradle-to-grave cost comparison, these people would surely cost the NHS a comparable amount of money if they had never smoked, possibly even more. Many smokers die of heart attacks (a comparatively cheap way to go), and even treatment for lung cancer must be less expensive than spending 10 years in a care home with dementia. My gut feeling is that smokers save the NHS money even before you take into account the extra tax they pay for their addiction.
The headline claim "smoking costs £ 5bn" is based on a comparison where giving up smoking makes you live forever and never get ill, which is clearly not the way it works in the real world.
Where is Ben Goldacre when we need him to stop bad science from being printed in the Guardian and dig out more meaningful figures ?!