Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Some Insight into the Costs of Smoking

Treehugger.com presented an excellent article on the environmental and social impacts of cigarette smoking. This, of course, has inspired a S.E.E.P.-worthy rant on the subject. Highlights from the Treehugger article are to follow.


In the ER, we see a skewed subset of the population: we see people who are truly sick, people who are injured, and a multitude of people who make themselves ill by their own personal choices and are allowed to abuse our medical system as a result. The interesting thing is, the majority of people of whom healthcare is paid for by our tax dollars seem to be smokers. Let's do some simple calculations: 1 pack per day of cigarettes at $4.50/pack = $135/month and $1620/year. It seems to me, that if you don't smoke, the money you save can buy you a reasonable personal health plan ($113 and up for a $0 deductable PPO policy on eHealthInsurance.com), thereby making you responsible for your own health. If we spend billions of healthcare dollars treating smoking related illness, the real question is, why do we allow those on public assistance to smoke? This is especially shocking considering that the money that these patients spend on cigarettes can pay for the majority of medical coverage that they demand from the state. This is in addition to the medical costs incurred by the habit of smoking - it is the #1 risk factor for heart attacks, significantly increases risk for stroke, blood clots, 95% of people with lung cancer are smokers, and nearly all patients with emphysema and COPD are smokers as well!

Our healthcare system is in shambles and is stressed beyond belief. The main reasons for this are unfair insurance practices, frivilous lawsuits, and abuse of the current system by many of those who utilize it. Besides passing restrictions on insurance companies and significant tort reform, we need to introduce accountability into our public health system. You are responsible for your health. If you choose to smoke, drink to excess, and participate in many other self-mutiliating behaviors, you do not qualify for public assistance. If you can show that you are responsible and deserve assistance, it shall be given to you. On the other hand, if you can afford to support multiple children, a tobacco habit, an alcohol or drug habit, etc. and you are paying for private insurance, then you have no restrictions to your American rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. It's a very similar concept to living in your parents' house: "You live under my roof, you play by my rules."

Here are some highlights from the Treehugger article:

"Global cigarette production in 2004 was 5.5 trillion units, or 868 cigarettes per every man, woman and child on the planet . 1

There are around 1.2 billion smokers in the world (about one-third of the global population aged 15 and over). 2. Nearly forty per cent (39.4%) of Europeans smoke, (up from 1995, when a figure of 33.9% recorded.) 2a.

Each year nearly 600 million trees are destroyed to provide fuel to dry tobacco. Put in another way one tree is destroyed for every 300 cigarettes. 6

In 1995 worldwide tobacco manufacturing produced 2.26 billion kilograms of solid waste and 209 million kilograms of chemical waste. 7

Releases to the environment of Toxics Release Inventory chemicals by the tobacco manufacturing industry in the United States recorded for 1996 included (but weren’t limited to):
Ammonia 946,155 kg
Hydrochloric acid 407,371 kg
Methyl ethyl ketone 340,821 kg
Nicotine and nicotine salts 900,377 kg
Sulphuric acid 67,228 kg
Toluene 349,622 kg 3

Tobacco is the second major cause of death in the world. It is currently responsible for the death of one in ten adults worldwide (about 5 million deaths each year). If current smoking patterns continue, it will cause some 10 million deaths each year by 2020. Half the people that smoke today -that is about 650 million people- will eventually be killed by tobacco. 10

Cigarette smoke contains polonium 210, a radioactive element. One study shows that a person who smokes 20 cigarettes a day receives a dose of radiation each year equivalent to about 200 chest x-rays. 5

In 1999, tobacco-related medical expenditures and productivity losses cost the United States more than $150 billion—almost 1.5 times the revenue of the five largest multinational tobacco companies that year. 11

Tobacco and poverty are inextricably linked. Many studies have shown that in the poorest households in some low-income countries as much as 10% of total household expenditure is on tobacco. This means that these families have less money to spend on basic items such as food, education and health care. 10
"

Also see "More Insights into the Costs of Smoking."

2 Comments:

Blogger Gavin W. said...

you forgot to mention the hospitals part in the excess of modern medicine. We tell people who never even had a real complaint to begin with to return for symptoms and rechecks. Now, the common "worker" argument, the argument coming from us working in the ED, we say "its because of the lawsuits," but I have no doubts that hospital administrators were pissing themselves with joy after we began implementing these policies. They get more money for frivolous visits and even more for their "follow-ups."

I think the idea of re-checking or a follow-up done in the ER is fucking stupid anyway...

11:05 AM  
Blogger Kipchoge said...

Hey Clint, thanks for adding an Xtracycle to your fleet. I think you'll be stoked. We were back-country skiing this weekend and my buddy showed us how to smoke through a chunk of snow. I was horrified to see that the black yellow tar gunk from ONE puff was so big and gnarly. Truly disgusting to imagine what a lifetime of smoking does to one's breathers. My band (the Ginger Ninjas) is going on tour to Mexico by bicycle from up here in Nor Cal. Hope to meet you in SLO on the way.

Have you heard Dr. Weil talk about the US health care system lately? He says it's so expensive for the reasons you suggest, but also (and he thinks, mainly) because of our entire approach to health is so predicated on treatment rather than prevention -- and more and more complex and expensive treatment all the time. He thinks that even slightly more sane systems like single payer in Canada will also go bankrupt because of this tendency.

12:09 PM  

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