The economic benefits of tobacco control rapidly outweigh tobacco tax revenues


October 31, 2011

During the first 15 years of the Tobacco Control Program in California, which cost in the region of US$1.5 billion, the savings made in direct health-care costs amounted to US$86 billion

During the first 15 years of the Tobacco Control Program in California, which cost in the region of US$1.5 billion, the savings made in direct health-care costs amounted to US$86 billion

In the past decade a line has been drawn in the sand in most major cities. Tax revenues from cigarettes are higher than ever, and most bars and restaurants no longer allow smoking within their confines. The days of smoking being the social norm are quickly turning into times when those lighting-up are viewed as an outcast minority, and when it comes to quitting, the evidence is clear that it's not just the smokers themselves who stand to benefit.

I gave up smoking three years ago - cold turkey. I don't say that to gloat, only to assure you that it is possible. That being said, giving up smoking is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Many people try, and fail, every year and those who do succeed in kicking the habit only manage to do so with much help and support. Don't worry, just because I am a quitter does not mean that I will turn instantly into the anti-smoking freak that I so opposed while I smoked. I would however like to touch on one or two more serious issues.

One: "Smoking is the #1 cause of preventable death, with more than 400,000 people in the U.S. every year dying of illnesses directly related to tobacco use and even secondhand smoke." (Source - CDC)

Two: "Tobacco-related illness saps the country of more than US$193 billion in health-care costs and lost productivity each year." (Source - American Lung Association/

You know this already: smoking kills. You don't need to be told that tobacco is responsible for about a sixth of the non-communicable diseases per annum. "Yeah, yeah", I would have said in my days as a smoker, "but it is my choice ... and just think of all the money I contribute in additional taxes!" You have heard that smokers argument before, no doubt.

So here is where it starts to get real. Quitting smoking has immediate benefits to your health, and the health of those around you. There is indeed a huge amount of evidence to suggest that after just one year of being smoke free your risk of heart attack is cut in half. In approximately five years you will be on a par with non smokers.

But, as the title of this article suggests, this is not just about why you should stop smoking. This is about why more should be done to help you do so. The good news is that smoking rates are falling. State data shows Massachusetts has had success in limiting tobacco use. The Statewide smoking rate dropped from 23.5-percent in 1992, the year before state anti-tobacco programs began, to 14.1-percent in 2010, according to the Department of Public Health. But is enough being done?

Another survey, published by the American Lung Association in January of 2011, suggests we could do more. While it gives the U.S. government good scores for the treatment of people with tobacco-related illnesses, it suggest that as many as 40 States are failing when it comes to anti-smoking programs (40 States Get An F In Tobacco Prevention, 2011).

As is rightly being suggested in many articles on this subject, it is time to put health before trade.

Consider this. During the first 15 years of the Tobacco Control Program in California, which cost in the region of US$1.5 billion, the savings made in direct health-care costs amounted to US$86 billion. Read that sentence again. The $1.5 billion spent on tobacco control in California has resulted in savings in excess of 60 times that sum. If you wish to make the argument that your smoking is doing good by way of taxes, then think again. During those 15-years roughly 3.6 billion packets of cigarettes that would otherwise have been smoked were not. The loss in tax revenue amounted to little over US$3 billion, less than 3-percent of the total health-care savings.

In addition, just because I am no longer a smoker does not mean I do not contribute to taxes. I just do it in other, more healthy, ways. As it happens, the US$2,500+ that I have saved by not smoking has been put to very good use.

I'm not trying to persuade you to give up smoking. Truth be told I never met a smoker who truly did not want to stop smoking, so I really don't need to. All I ask is that you consider both sides before you start up with the inevitable arguments to justify the habit. The bottom line is that, while not only is it fantastically good for your health, smoking cessation has a direct impact on reducing the cost of health care. Your health care (that you no doubt complain about the price of) is not cheaper thanks to all the smokers in your State, it is more expensive.


What does this have to do with Technology? Sounds more like a social engineering exercise to me.

\"The economic benefits of tobacco control rapidly outweigh tobacco tax revenues\"

So what? That is not in the slightest a reason to take peoples freedom away. If your argument is that people have to pay for a smokers healthcare, then exclude smokers from smoke related health services.

\"This is about why more should be done to help you do so\"

What kind of help are you referring to? Compulsion to quit?

\" it is time to put health before trade.\"

Who says so? You? This is a very collectivist way of thinking. If you succeed in preventing smoke related illnesses, they will be replaced by diseases related to other causes including old age. What is next? Ban junkfood?

Your tax argument doesn\'t hold either. You limit yourself to tax revenues on the sales of cigarettes but you fail to see the longer term benefit of smokers dying well before their retirement age.

I am a non smoker, when I am in a room with smokers I have trouble breathing and I need to get out. But I tell you something: I prefer to be forced to leave that room than having the likes of you legislate what people can and can not do.

A disgusting article that belongs in some communist manifesto but not on Gizmag.

Paul van Dinther

Ok here\'s the thing! i hated being told all the problems by ex smokers. No one was going to tell me what to do with my own body.

I gave up smoking when I realised that despite all my best efforts at being myself, my own boss and being in control of my life. Some dude at Phillip Morris was pressing a little button on a machine and ordering me around several times a day. Then he was giving my money to his kids for their education and using it to pay for his health insurance and good food his boat and holiday home.

Hard to get off them but if you don\'t want to be told what to do for the rest of your life..... Give it up. By thwe way good luck with that. You will need it.


Damaging the health of those around you & polluting the air with your addiction is not a right. You do not have the right to kill me or otherwise cause harm. What you say sounds like a rather perverse interpretation of freedom. Our way of life is not always made better by all the rules & regulations we\'re subjected to but they\'re often there to help structure society to be something better. Prohibition is definitely an example of taking things too far but you could no doubt use that as a counter argument.

Communist manifesto lol...poor commies always get such a bad rap.


How about this? If you smoke, go off and die without demanding health care and make sure you have life insurance that covers smoking related death so your family at least doesn\'t completely miss out because you selfishly \"chose\" to be addicted to a drug. Have you had to sit and watch a loved one slowly die well before their time just because they chose to smoke? It really is sad. Think about it.

Having said that, I was expecting some new way to determine the cost of tobacco.

Paul, you don\'t want legislation that says people can\'t kill you on a whim? You don\'t want legislation that says people can\'t set fire to your property? You don\'t want legislation that says you can\'t drive anywhere you chose? Why is it strange that we\'d have legislation to stop people from harming others with their smoking choices? And how much \"choice\" does the average smoker really have? How many 30 year olds decide one day to take up smoking vs how many 13 year olds? Are you seriously saying that 13 year olds are able to make a well weighted decision regarding smoking? I would put it to the world that if we were somehow able to absolutely restrict people from smoking until the age of, say 30 or 40 and then they were able to make the choice given all the education and information they want that almost no one would ever start. The only reason smoking happens at all is because people get into it as a youngster when they think it is hip and cool.

Caring about yourself and other people is not communist. Not caring about individuals is what communism is about.


\"Tobacco-related illness saps the country of more than US$193 billion in health-care costs and lost productivity each year.\"

Yes but how much do healthy people cost in terms of health care costs? allot more then $193 billion. That is if you smoke and die relatively quickly your less of a cost then if you grow old and die slowly.

Hhghghj Wer

This article calculates your gains when investing in #prevention :

Your return is more than 57 TIMES what you put up over 15 years.

That is a LOT better than playing the stock markets !

As an MD specialized in occupational health prevention, I\'m in the right business :-)

PS. Curious what the return on investment in UNITED TOBACCO has been ? Probably way higher, together with the arms industry.

But I do not want to be associated with those fellows either, so if that makes me a commie, feel free to call me one. At least I\'ll be a rich one ;-)

Bart Viaene

Smoking is the #1 cause of preventable death, with more than 400,000 people in the U.S. every year dying of illnesses directly related to tobacco use and even secondhand smoke.\"

Right and these people would never have died if they didn\'t smoke? they wouldn\'t have gotten sick and needed any medical care?

I think that when looking at the \"Big Picture\" numbers can be spun any way that is desired by the corporation or government agency presenting them. I would be curious if there are any truly independent third party studies that support this.

My experience in living with a non smoker advocate is that they are almost evangelical in their quest to stop people from smoking. Communist Yes that is a fair description in so far as they subscribe to the theory that the end justifies the means.

With the war on smoking being close to won they are now moving on to the environment and are now probably ready to start hitting fast food. Lots of things to crusade for and plenty of issues that require government money spent for the greater good.

Beware fat men driving V8\'s - you are the next target.


Great article. I finally gave up two years ago after 35 years of twenty a day, passive smoking before that and smoking in the womb before that. Best thing I ever did. These figures expose the lie that there is a net benefit through taxation to the economy.

Facebook User

Smoking affects technology. For those that say \"it\'s my body\", it\'s my taxes partly paying for your health care. When you opt out of the social system supporting medicare and pay ALL your costs and the costs of those made ill by your 2nd hand smoke then you do as you want. Until then I have a right to be upset you are choosing to poison yourself and those around you while expecting others to pick up the tab.

Max Kennedy

@Paul van Dinther

Ban junkfood?

This is actually a very good idea! I do not mean fastfood but especially junkfood - food with bad quality and wrong ingredients ratio. This can be done on producer side.

Another thing is too big portions. That affects also healtcare. Something can be done also here. This might be sound absurd but think about it - a excess food tax. You can think about it as kind of luxurytax. You want to have that XXXXXXL burger? You pay proportional tax dependent on excess calories.

And please do not attac my person - these are just ideas to consider.

Kris Lee

How disingenuous to prattle about "So here is where it starts to get real." and then come out with the brain fart: "I'm not trying to persuade you to give up smoking"

I do not smoke. Never have. So don't blab about me giving you and yours cancer. I know many smokers and non-smokers. So what.

The bottom line of your article is that "Economic good allows society to restrict your rights" -- In the last fifty years we have new laws that bully us to wear seat belts and helmets, restrict where and when we smoke, buy insurances of many kinds, give us electronic strip searches, and monitor even what library books we read. All for "economic benefit."

(and don't get me started on the decay of the school systems)

And all of these are "motivated" by economic benefit: the kind that statisticians love.

Thanks but no thanks.

As I get older, I'm thinking we need more folks like Davy Crockett, who, in spite of being an American example of excellence, finally gave up on the US political-economic extortion, saying "You can all go to hell - I'm going to Texas" (Well, in 1836 Texas might have been a nice place)

Davy never wanted a "job" nor "health care." You may. Respect.

Keep your health care. I do not want "care" -- You can keep your inhalers, mobility devices and diabetic crap. Keep your deadly diet leading to your dependency on "care." If you need "care" then go buy the insurance you need, and leave me out of it.

Are you not tired of this creeping Orwellian disaster?

Respect. Don't screw with me. I won't screw with you.

(and BTW, this is an inappropriate article for Gizmag. It's got no Giz. )

Jim Hinds

@Paul van Dinther

I wanted to elaborate myself a bit more. With junkfood I mean cancerogenic food or food from the replacement components - for example many products called ham do not contain much of the meat.

Now you maybe may want to argue that free markets should regulate this instead.

They regulate that indeed but not in very favorable way in my opinion.

Usually better quality food is more expensive. This means that more wealthy people can afford better food. Less wealthy people are left with what they can afford until level what can be called complete junk.

You just can not regulate this with the free market - there are always people who will get minimum wage and they eat what they can afford.

Now of course banning junkfood would raise food prices. I do not doubt in it.

But it would also put pressure on the minimum wage too.

At the moment politicians can argue that it is possible to live with the minimum salary and this puts those people who depend on it into forced position.

They do not die right away but do this slowly by living less quality lives with more illness and shorter life span.

So yes, banning junkfood may be a good idea.

Kris Lee

Tobacco companies kill millions to make millions. There is little to stop them in the foreign markets. Slow death is also murder. Selling tobacco products is the highest form of greed. It will never be stopped by governments because they are just as hooked on taxes as the smoker is hooked on tobacco.


Hmmm. Gizmag\'s first editorial. I\'m newly a non-smoker - even if it\'s the tenth time this year. I\'m doing okay with the patches this time - four weeks worth paid for by California\'s 1-800-nobutts program, and discounts on further patches. I\'m finally benefitting from the years I spent paying the extra 50-cent/pack sales tax used to help people quit. Frankly, I think the tobacco companies should pay for any kind of gum, patches, hypnotism, pills - whatever to help ween tobacco users from their addictive products.


Kris Lee, Ban your own Junk Food. Prohibition was a rousing success wasn\'t it.

Max Kennedy, That\'s why taxes should not be anywhere near healthcare. It\'s yet another segway to the nanny state. Charity is the responsibility of the individual. Government \"Charity\" is a power grab, nothing more. It\'s a farce for me to say \"I care so much about x that I\'m willing to make YOU pay for it\".


"Truth be told I never met a smoker who truly did not want to stop smoking, so I really don't need to." That's because you've never been to Serbia. I think that more than 50% of people here smoke, and probably more than 3/4 of those going out on Friday and Saturday nights. We even have foreign tourists visiting because of cheap cigarettes and booze.

The most profitable thing a country can do is to export both tobacco and medical equipment needed to treat tobacco related health problems. I wonder if countries do that? :)

Andreja Sinadinovic Vijatovic
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