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Smoking's Economic Losses Put at $7 a Pack

April 12, 2002|From Associated Press

ATLANTA — 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.

The average cost of a pack of cigarettes in 1999 was $2.92.

"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 it 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 1990s. 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.

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