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11-26-2004, 09:39 AM
Posted on Fri, Nov. 26, 2004


Smoking tab? $40 per pack

Health economists look at lifetime cost figure for families, society

Associated Press

DURHAM - Cigarettes may cost smokers more than they believe. A study by a team of health economists finds the combined price paid by their families and society is about $40 per pack of cigarettes.

The figure is based on lifetime costs for a 24-year-old smoker over 60 years for cigarettes, taxes, life and property insurance, medical care and lost earnings because of smoking-related disabilities, researchers said.

"It will be necessary for persons aged 24 and younger to face the fact that the decision to smoke is a very costly one -- one of the most costly decisions they make," the study's authors concluded.

Smokers pay about $33 of the cost, their families absorb $5.44 and others pay $1.44, according to health economists from Duke University and a professor from the University of South Florida. The study drew on data including Social Security earnings histories dating to 1951.

Incidental costs such as higher cleaning bills and lower resale values for smokers' cars were not included.

Most smoking studies rely on a snapshot of annual costs, said co-author Frank Sloan, an economics professor and the director of the Center for Health, Policy, Law and Management at Duke's Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy.

Despite the finding that smoking is a costly habit for individuals, society carries less of a burden than generally believed, the study's authors determined.

"The reason the number is low is that for private pensions, Social Security, and Medicare -- the biggest factors in calculating costs to society -- smoking actually saves money," Sloan said. "Smokers die at a younger age and don't draw on the funds they've paid into those systems."

Given the high costs, it is "remarkable," the authors conclude, that money from the 1998 settlement involving 46 state attorneys general and major tobacco manufacturers are not being spent largely on smoking-cessation or related programs.

But even after taking into account the cost savings from early deaths, smoking still costs society $2.20 a pack for such things as sick leave, life insurance outlays and medical care not paid by smokers. The researchers concluded that after subtracting the 76 cents a pack smokers pay in state and federal taxes, society's net cost is $1.44 a pack.

Many states use the money to cover budget deficits or, as in North Carolina, on economic development in tobacco communities.