Is vaping cheaper than smoking?

Is vaping cheaper than smoking?

Nobody would disagree that cigarettes are really expensive; but what is the true cost of smoking? Not only on our bank balance, but also on society and the environment. And how does the cost of smoking compare against the cost of vaping.

When I first started smoking in *ahem* 1991, I could buy 20 Marlboro and a box of matches and have change from £2! Each passing year thereafter saw a price increase; as the cost went higher and higher, I vowed to quit if they ever got to £5 a pack. Then I changed my vow to £6, then £7, then - well, you get the idea.

Don’t get me wrong, price wasn’t the only reason I wanted to quit smoking. I was well aware of the damage I was inflicting upon myself. It was just the most tangible reason - one I could feel the direct impact from on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, as a devout nicotine addict, even my dwindling bank balance wasn’t sufficient to conjure a successful quit attempt. It seemed I could always find a way to fund my habit.

That was my life B.V - Before Vaping! Now I am six years smoke free and my finances and I are both much healthier.

What is the cost of smoking?

There are heavy costs associated with smoking. Costs to our finances. Costs to our health. Costs to the NHS. Costs to the economy. Costs to our environment. The economic burden of smoking far outweighs any economic benefit from the sale of tobacco products.

Let’s explore each of these costs in more detail…

The cost of smoking to your finances

I’ve just checked the cost of 20 Marlboro Gold (my old brand of choice) on the Tesco website and was shocked to see that they are now £11.39. Even more shocked to discover that they aren’t the most expensive. 20 Silk Cut will set you back a whopping £12.40. The cheapest I could find was L&B for £8.68.

So, if I do the maths, I used to smoke a pack of Marlboro a day which, if I was still smoking today, would cost me £4,157.35 a year. Good grief! Even if I switched to the cheapest brand, it would still set me back over £3,100.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the national average for UK smokers is 11.3 cigarettes per day. That means the average smoker, dependent on their chosen brand, will spend between £1,700 and £2,500 per year on cigarettes. That’s the cost of a very nice holiday!

The cost of smoking to your health

Referring to the British Medical Journal (BMJ) for the latest stats, the results from a 50 year study show that between half and two thirds of all lifelong smokers will be killed by their habit.

Death is usually attributed to one of the three major diseases caused by smoking - lung cancer, chronic obstructive lung disease, or coronary heart disease.

Also factor in that many people with these diseases suffer years of ill health before they die. Smokers have a significantly higher rate of early retirement due to chronic illness. This potential loss of income should also be considered as a cost.

The cost of smoking to the NHS

According to the latest figures from Public Health England, an executive agency of the government’s Department of Health and Social Care, the total estimated cost of smoking to the NHS in England in 2015 was a staggering £2.6bn! 

This figure was split among various parts of the primary and secondary care settings as follows:

  • £794m on GP visits
  • £111.7m on practice nurse visits
  • £144.8m on prescriptions
  • £696.6m on outpatient visits
  • £851.6m on hospital admissions

I don’t know about you, but I think that money could be much better spent.

The cost of smoking on the economy

Figures from the government’s Tobacco Control Plan for England estimate that smoking costs our economy in excess of £12bn each year. 

We’ve already seen that £2.6bn of this burden falls to the NHS.

Of the remaining cost, £5.3bn is the price paid by employers due to productivity lost from smoke breaks, sick leave, and premature deaths.

£760m falls to local authorities to pay for smoking related social care needs.

The study estimates that the remaining £4bn + is spent on things like putting out fires caused by cigarettes, and sweeping cigarette butts off our streets.

The cost of smoking on the environment

A recent report by the United Nations Environmental Programme found that, “if the tobacco industry was made to pay for the harm that it causes, it would not turn a profit.”

The whole lifecycle of tobacco - farming to manufacturing to consumption - has a pronounced impact on the environment.

Deforestation, water consumption, use of pesticides, greenhouse gas emissions, weakening of fertile land - these are just some of the destructive costs of smoking.

That’s before we even discuss the pollution caused by cigarette smoke and discarded cigarette waste. The 2014 global estimate for waste was anywhere up to 680 million kilos, of which filters are the bulk.

The filters themselves do not biodegrade under most circumstances (contrary to what the tobacco industry would like you to believe). They break into smaller plastic pieces and leach the horrific chemicals they contain into land and water.

What is the cost of vaping?

As responsible vaping advocates, we are never going to attempt to claim that there isn’t a cost associated with vaping. Some of these costs are yet to be fully measured but let’s look at what we know so far...

The cost of vaping on the environment

Little is known about the environmental impact from the manufacture, use and disposal of e-cigarettes. The Tobacco Control group is advocating for more scientific research to be conducted so that recommendations can be made and, where necessary, regulations put in place.

What we do know from the introduction of the TPD regulations is that the vaping industry is quick to respond to any new demands made of it.

The cost of vaping on your health

As for the cost to health, consider that the vaping industry is relatively new so there are no 50 year studies, like with tobacco, to be compared against.

However, what we do have is evidence from reliable sources, including Public Health England, that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking. We also know that switching from smoking to vaping increases your chances of successfully quitting smoking for good by 60%.

Your body will start to benefit just 20 minutes after you stub out your final cigarette. All of this points towards vaping having a much lower cost on your health.

The cost of vaping on the NHS and the economy

Although the cost of smoking to the NHS and the economy is well documented, vaping figures haven’t been released yet.

What I can share with you is a quote from Professor John Britton, chair of the Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians.

"If all the smokers in Britain stopped smoking cigarettes and started smoking e-cigarettes we would save 5 million deaths in people who are alive today. It’s a massive potential public health prize."

You could argue that by saving 5 million deaths from smoking, there will be a cost to the public purse associated with those 5 million people living longer. However, those costs would likely be countered by the reduction in costs from smoking related diseases that we outlined above.

Plus, also consider that if people aren’t dying prematurely, or taking early retirement due to ill health, the economy benefits from their productivity and consumerism.

The cost of vaping to your finances

Last but not least, the tangible cost of vaping - how much does it cost you in pounds, shillings and pence?

The initial outlay when switching from smoking to vaping is obviously higher than the cost of a pack of cigarettes. You need to buy the hardware, the e-liquid, the coils…

As an example, our top 5 best selling mouth to lung (MtL) starter kits cost between £16 and £25. I vape using the Smok Nord AIO Pen Kit which we currently sell for £24.99.

Depending on use and quality, a vape pen should last you upwards of a year. So the main ongoing cost is consumables which, in the vaping world, consists of e liquid and coils.

We sell 10ml bottles of high quality e-liquid from £2.50. I personally vape short fill e-liquids which come in 50ml quantities and can be purchased for as little as £8.99.

The price of coils will vary dependent on the make of your kit, but you should expect to pay between £8 and £15 for a pack of 5.

So, how does all that add up? Let’s take my vape usage as an example…

My monthly cost of vaping

I’m what you might call a heavy vaper - if I’m not asleep, the chances are I’ve got my vape in my hand! I go through 50mls of vape juice per week. I change my coil about every ten days. So, in an average month, I will vape 200ml of e-juice, and use 3 coils.

On the lower cost short fill e-liquids, that’s a monthly expenditure of £35.96 - let’s call it £40.

On my particular coils, that’s a monthly cost of £7.80 - let’s round that up to a tenner.

Each month I spend roughly £50 on vaping consumables. That’s a hell of a saving compared to the £340 it would cost me if I was still smoking 20 Marlboro a day!

The cost of vaping takeaways

There can be little doubt that vaping is cheaper than smoking. Even if you opt for a high-end advanced vape kit, once the initial purchase is made you will undoubtedly save money on the consumables compared to another year on the ciggies. Plus, since e-cigarettes are proven to be 95% safer than traditional cigarettes, you’ll also buy yourself some more time on the planet.

As for the other costs associated with vaping, we’ll keep you informed as and when new data is released. However, we’re pretty confident that, whatever the cost, it will be significantly lower than the cost of smoking.

We're here to help you quit smoking for good

At Vape UK, we pride ourselves on being responsible vaping advocates. We keep up to date with all of the latest news and studies; we supply high quality TPD compliant vaping products; and we are always on hand to offer helpful and honest advice about vaping. Please get in touch if you have any queries on quitting smoking.

  • Nicola Webster

About the author - Nicola Webster

Nicola Webster works as a researcher, consultant, and content creator for Vape UK and Vape UK CBD. She holds a CIM Level 6 Diploma in Professional Marketing and has developed her skills and knowledge of analytics and research over a 12 year career in product marketing. Her research led approach to campaigns and content writing ensures the articles she writes for Vape UK always have a basis in fact and cut through the noise. A strong advocate for tobacco harm reduction, Nicola is an ex-smoker thanks to vaping and wants others to understand the benefits of vaping compared to smoking. Outside of content creation and vaping advocacy, Nicola enjoys watching live music, travelling in Southeast Asia, and exploring the beautiful countryside of the South Downs.