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Original post made
on Apr 16, 2008
We could adopt the Chinese policy and encourage smoking.
Philip Morris did an economic analysis a few years ago that showed that the health care and social security costs for smokers are less that for the rest of the aged. You also get the tax revenues from the habit
Smokers die early, fast and cheap. Apparently some governments were influenced by the Morris study-- Czechoslovakia embraced it under communism as did North Korea.
Here is more on the Morris study in case you thought I was joking
After decades of sticking their heads in the sand about the hazards of tobacco, Philip Morris has found a new tacticpromoting the benefits to society of premature deaths from smoking. A study produced for them by Arthur D. Little, one of the "foremost management consulting firms," found the early deaths of smokers has "positive effects" for society that more than counteract the medical costs of treating smoking induced cancer, etc.
This path-breaking research was limited to smoking in Czechoslovakia. It found that in 1999, despite health care costs for dying smokers, the government still had a net gain of $147.1 million from smoking. From these figures, the American Legacy Foundation calculated the Czech government saved $1,227 per dead smoker. That's a pretty good return, as Philip Morris proudly informed government leaders in the Czech Republic.
Philip Morris has since come in for a flood of criticism and has publicly apologized for the conclusions, which is too bad, because the report makes fascinating reading. It is, as the authors state, "The results of the exercise of our best professional judgment."
What makes the study such a model of American scholarship is the care taken to leave no stones unturned. Not only did the Arthur D. Little researchers find out precisely how much early deaths save on health care expenses, housing for the elderly, social security, and pensions, they also uncovered savings from premature deaths in areas we non-experts would never dream to look.
Who would think to look at the effect of smoking deaths on unemployment? These authors did, and they found that "replacing those who die early...leads to savings in social benefits paid to the unemployed and in costs of re-training."
What is the morbidity of skydiving, rock climbing and SCUBA? How about promiscuity?
Then how many people have been killed in the last century to motivate others to "The Way"?
Well 400,000 Americans die of smoking related illnesses every year so 2 million have died since we invaded Iraq.
Of course as the one handed economist said -- 'in the long term we are all dead'
This is a massive, looming social problem that will not go away. In the offing are intergenerational tax wars (who will pay for this), and a degree of social and personal displacement that will shock Americans who have inculcated the idea that they will be automatically taken care of in their old age.
Here are just some of the challenges:
1. Creating a finance system for long-term care that works
2. Building a viable and affordable community-based delivery system
3. Investing in healthy aging in order to achieve lower disability rates, and
4. Recharging the concept of family and the value of seniors in American culture.
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