Debate: Do Smokers Cost Society Money?

 

Smoking takes years off your life and adds dollars to the cost of health care. Yet nonsmokers cost society money, too – by living longer.

It’s an element of the debate over tobacco that some economists and officials find distasteful.

House members described huge health care costs associated with smoking as they approved landmark legislation last week giving the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco products. No one mentioned the additional costs to society of caring for a nonsmoking population that lives longer.

Supporters of the FDA bill cited figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that smokers cost the country $96 billion a year in direct health care costs, and an additional $97 billion a year in lost productivity.

A White House statement supporting the bill, which awaits action in the Senate, echoed the argument by contending that tobacco use “accounts for over a $100 billion annually in financial costs to the economy.”

“It looks unpleasant or ghoulish to look at the cost savings as well as the cost increases and it’s not a good thing that smoking kills people. But if you’re going to follow this health-cost train all the way, you have to take into account all the effects,” says economist Kip Viscusi.

Via USA Today