Smokers die about 10 years earlier than non-smokers, resulting in reduced costs for Medicare and other entitlement programs, according to CDC statistics, the AP/Arizona Daily Star reports.

In debate over legislation passed last week that gave FDA regulatory authority over tobacco products, House members cited large health care costs associated with smoking. Supporters of the legislation provided CDC figures showing that smokers cost the country $96 billion annually in direct health care costs, and an additional $97 billion per year in lost productivity. A White House statement supporting the bill said tobacco use "accounts for over $100 billion annually in financial costs to the economy."

However, a study conducted by Vanderbilt University economist Kip Viscusi found that every pack of cigarettes smoked by U.S. residents results in net cost reduction of 32 cents for the country. In addition, a Dutch study published last year in the journal Public Library of Science Medicine found that health care costs for smokers were around $326,000 from age 20 and older, compared with about $417,000 for healthy people, because the latter group lives much longer.

Viscusi said, "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," adding, "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."

Terry Pechacek, CDC associate director for science in the office on smoking and health, said data quantifying the economic benefits of smoking cannot account for all the benefits associated with longevity, such as a grandparent's contribution to a family. Pechacek said CDC will not release figures on exact cost reductions (Werner, AP/Arizona Daily Star, 4/8).

Reprinted with kind permission from kaisernetwork. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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