Each pack of cigarettes sold in the United States costs the nation $7 in medical care and lost productivity, the government said Thursday.
The study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta put the nation’s total cost of smoking at $3,391 a year for every smoker, or #157.7 billion. Health experts had previously estimated $96 billion.
Americans buy about 22 billion packs of cigarettes annually. The CDC study is the first to establish a per-pack cost to the nation. The agency estimated the nation’s smoking-related medical costs at $3.45 per pack, and said job productivity lost because of premature death from smoking amounted to $3.73 per pack, for a total of $7.18.
“There’s a big difference in the cost to society and what society is getting back in tax,” said the CDC’s Dr. Terry Pechacek. “We believe society is bearing a burden for the individual behavioral choices of the smokers.” The CDC said is analyzed expenses, both personal and for the health-care industry, and used national medical surveys to calculate the costs to the nation. The agency also reported that smoking results in about 440,000 deaths a year in the United States, up from the government’s previous figure of 430,000, established in the early 1990’s. The new study was conducted from 1995 to 1999.
A spokesman for tobacco giant Brown & Williamson objected that the study presents the figures in a vacuum, without comparing smoking to the financial burdens other people-nonsmokers with diabetes, for example-place on society. “What does that number mean?” spokesman Mark Smith said. “It doesn’t mean anything. It’s bordering on meaningless.” Representatives from the nation’s two other leading tobacco companies-Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds-did not immediately return calls for comment.