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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Smoker vindicated: Saves $90,000 in health care by not quitting

In my last blog I mildly mocked a colleague who defended his smoking habit by claiming it would kill him younger and thus save on health care. Dutch researchers recently released a study that supports this non-intuitive repercussion of an unhealthy lifestyle. They calculate the cost of care to be $90,000 less for the tobacco junkies versus those who lead a healthy life. They also threw cold water on the idea that obesity weighs down healthcare systems: By eating as much as they like, the eager eaters save nearly $50,000 in lifetime medical costs. Unfortunately these savings in caring for smokers and obese people come at the cost of shorter life spans. See the study’s stats at this article by Maria Cheng of Associated Press.

This begs the question as to whether it’s worth spending a great deal of money on government programs aimed at prevention of smoking and the like. Some might wonder whether these expenditures make much of a dent in the rates of tobacco addiction. However, a new report issued by the American Journal of Public Health claims that U.S. states that spent more on anti-smoking programs had the fewest smokers. (One wonders if this is correlation or causation.) Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a co-sponsor of the study, say that all but four states devote less than they recommend on the hazards of tobacco use. The CDC calculates that there would be 7 million fewer smokers in the USA had more money been spent. Evidently the state health officials came to their own conclusions on the costs versus benefits of attempting to dissuade smokers from shortening their lives as a desirable tradeoff for the “comfort” ( as the statistician Cochran put it) of their cigarettes.


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