Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sunday Morning :: Big Tobacco Tax

I'm sitting here watching CNN before the CBS Sunday Morning Show starts and there's a bit about the new sixty-two cent per pack tax on cigarettes. I haven't done any looking into it, as far as the logic behind the tax and where the money is intended to go. The key word here is "intended". Theoretically, it would go to cover the skewed medical costs for tobacco users. We all know how our governments don't work as intended. It wouldn't surprise me if the tax actually goes back to the tobacco growers (through the Department of Agriculture) for research into how to grow healthier, more pest and drought resistant tobacco plants. I know, that's a stretch, but you get my drift.

The reporter said tobacco kills 400,000 people in the U.S. a year. I looked it up once and was surprised to find that one in four smoke. So that's seventy-five million [75,000,000] current, living smokers. So it kills 400k every year - lung cancer, throat cancer, mouth cancer, tongue cancer, lip cancer, arteriosclerosis, emphysema, hypertension, myocardial infarction, and on and on. 400k a year dead, I would guess five times that number of smokers who are seriously sickened in some way by it - perhaps 2,000,000 each year. Just call it 2,500,000 each year - which seems way too low based on 75 million smokers.

So let's do the math. Let's say at least $100k each for the 400k who permanently quit smoking. I think my dad's final bill was around $300k. That's $40,000,000,000 into the health care system for them. For the other 2.1 million folks, let's say ten grand for each of them. That's another twenty billion. $60 bil total. I'm guessing that's a low estimate. Let's round up to $100bil.

75mil smokers at a pack a day - three hundred sixty five days a year - that's twenty-seven billion, three hundred seventy-five million packs of cigarettes a year.

Divide $100bil in health care costs to the system each year by 23,375,000,000 packs a year and you get $3.65 per pack for the smoker to cover his or her own health care costs. Looks to me like we need to increase that tax by three bucks a pack. And that little quick and dirty math doesn't take into account the adverse health effects for all those subjected to second hand smoke.

The addictive product in a capitalist system. It might be the perfect product if it didn't kill the consumer in the end. But with twenty or thirty years of addiction, big tobacco is still doing pretty well on the balance sheet. Very well.

One parting thought - this doesn't take into account the rest of the world, where perhaps 50% or more of the population smokes. This is going to sound extreme, but I think I've just convinced myself we need tobacco as a population controller. I may actually be against increased taxation of tobacco. Hmmm. I didn't expect that.


msHedgehog said...

Next: the "war on drugs". :D

Red Shoes said...

Mmm, entropy. Even if the universe weren't predisposed to head that way, humans would drive it there...or at least themselves...