Don’t burn tobacco $$ on bud­get

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - OPINION -

The his­toric toll of smok­ing is well known — 20 mil­lion dead since the ground-break­ing sur­geon gen­eral’s re­port in 1964, about 2.5 mil­lion of whom died from ill­nesses caused by sec­ond­hand smoke pro­duced by oth­ers.

Re­duc­ing that toll has been one of the great pub­lic health achieve­ments of mod­ern times. Since the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion be­gan track­ing smok­ing through the Na­tional Health In­ter­view Sur­vey in 1965, the per­cent­age of adults who smoke has de­clined from more than 42 per­cent that year to 15.5 per­cent in 2016.

Yet, 38 mil­lion Amer­i­can adults con­tinue to smoke and the toll re­mains mas­sive.

Ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Lung As­so­ci­a­tion, nearly 500,000 still die each year due to smok­ing or ex­po­sure to sec­ond-hand smoke. Be­yond the per­sonal toll, the cost to the U.S. econ­omy in terms of med­i­cal treat­ment of smok­ing-caused dis­eases and lost pro­duc­tiv­ity of peo­ple suf­fer­ing those ill­nesses is more than $300 bil­lion ev­ery year.

The de­cline of the smok­ing rate is due to a wide ar­ray of fac­tors. State gov­ern­ments de­lib­er­ately have made the habit more ex­pen­sive through tax­a­tion. Vast ed­u­ca­tion and smok­ing ces­sa­tion cam­paigns have been ef­fec­tive. Reg­u­la­tory re­stric­tions have pre­vented tobacco com­pa­nies from ad­ver­tis­ing di­rectly to teens. And states have banned smok­ing in most pub­lic places, di­min­ish­ing the im­pact of sec­ond-hand smoke and di­min­ish­ing the so­cial ac­cept­abil­ity of smok­ing.

Now, the on­line eco­nomic site Wal­letHub has con­ducted an anal­y­sis demon­strat­ing the per­sonal cost of smok­ing that should prompt fur­ther ini­tia­tives to re­duce the smok­ing rate.

The anal­y­sis in­cludes the di­rect costs of buy­ing cig­a­rettes, in­come loss for peo­ple with smok­ing-caused dis­eases, in­creased in­sur­ance costs for smok­ers and costs re­lated to sec­ond-hand smoke ex­po­sure.

In Penn­syl­va­nia, the to­tal cost per year per smoker is $43,413 and the life­time cost per smoker is $2.21 mil­lion. Na­tion­ally, both of those fig­ures are the 10th-high­est among the states.

Those costs should prompt the state Leg­is­la­ture to re­turn to the is­sue this year. It should elim­i­nate all ex­emp­tions in the in­door smok­ing ban law to pro­tect em­ploy­ees at ex­empted casi­nos and some bars from the deadly im­pact of sec­ond-hand smoke. It should stop pil­fer­ing the fund from the na­tional tobacco set­tle­ment for the gen­eral bud­get and use it in­stead to im­prove anti-smok­ing ed­u­ca­tion and to pro­vide uni­ver­sal ac­cess to smok­ing ces­sa­tion pro­grams.

Such ac­tion could help has­ten the day when, fi­nally, smok­ing no longer is na­tion’s fore­most cause of pre­ventable deaths.

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