Smokers actually cost society LESS in healthcare dollars, due to earlier average age of death
“WASHINGTON — 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.””
However, smokers die some 10 years earlier than nonsmokers, according to the CDC, and those premature deaths provide a savings to Medicare, Social Security, private pensions and other programs.
Vanderbilt University economist Kip Viscusi studied the net costs of smoking-related spending and savings and found that for every pack of cigarettes smoked, the country reaps a net cost savings of 32 cents.
“”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,”” Viscusi said in an interview. “”But if you’re going to follow this health-cost train all the way, you have to take into account all the effects, not just the ones you like in terms of getting your bill passed.””
Viscusi worked as a litigation expert for the tobacco industry in lawsuits by states but said that his research, which has been published in peer-reviewed journals, has never been funded by industry.
Other researchers have reached similar conclusions.
A Dutch study published last year in the Public Library of Science Medicine journal said that health care costs for smokers were about $326,000 from age 20 on, compared to about $417,000 for thin and healthy people.