Disease and lost productivity due to smoking are costing the United States $65 billion a year--more than $2 for every pack of cigarettes consumed--according to a new congressional study released today.
The new estimate from the Office of Technology Assessment, Congress’ scientific advisory body, is substantially higher than past calculations of the costs of smoking reflected in increased medical bills, premature death and time lost from work.
“Our economy is losing more than $10 million an hour because of the smoking habit,” said Rep. Fortney H. (Pete) Stark Jr. (D-Oakland), who requested the study. “This study confirms our suspicion that smoking is not only a deadly habit, but a costly one for the federal health care budget.”
Stark, chairman of the health subcommittee of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, is pushing legislation to keep the cigarette tax at its current 16 cents per pack instead of allowing it to revert to 8 cents a pack as scheduled at the end of this month. Stark’s bill would earmark part of the revenue to help pay for federal health care programs.
Focusing on the three major causes of disease attributed to smoking--cancer, heart disease and lung ailments--the congressional researchers said the habit adds $22 billion a year to the nation’s health care costs and costs $43 billion in lost productivity and wages.