Does smoking lower health care costs?

By Tyler Beard

The United States would spend more money on heath care if everyone in the country gave up smoking tobacco products, a Towson University economics professor said Tuesday night.

Dr. Shantanu Bagchi says health care costs are lower because of smokers. Photo by Tyler Beard

Dr. Shantanu Bagchi says health care costs are lower because of smokers.
Photo by Tyler Beard

Dr. Shantanu Bagchi said that while health care costs for a smoker are 40 percent higher than for a nonsmoker, societies with a population of smokers and nonsmokers spend about 5 percent less for medical treatments than nations that consist only of nonsmokers.

“The reason for this is because most smokers don’t have high life expectancy, meaning nonsmokers require more care because of how they live longer,” Bagchi said during a speech at Stephens Hall.

Bagchi said that a scholarly paper he wrote with Professor James Feigenbaum of Utah State University showed that the population rate would go up and the tax rate would go down if no one smoked in the United States.

“We found that if we get rid of smokers, health expenditures would go up 2.72 percent but the gross domestic product would actually go up 4.47 percent,” Bagchi said. “We would also see a 1.4 percent decrease in the tax rate.”

Bagchi began his presentation by showing a video made by the satirical newspaper, The Onion. The video portrayed a bill being passed in Congress that would help Americans die faster to help the United States save money.

“The U.S. has one of the worst life expectancy rates in the world, as well as one of the highest rates in obesity and cardio vascular diseases,” Bagchi said.

During the presentation, Bagchi presented a graph that showed nonsmokers are more expensive after the age of 70.

He disputed claims by some who argue that smoking saves the United States money because of how much money the tobacco industry makes.

“My paper shows that isn’t the case, though, because when you have a population with higher life expectancy, more goods can be produced and that brings in more money for the economy,” Bagchi said.

Bagchi said the tax rate would drop if everyone stopped smoking because the population would be larger.

He said his research shows that people would rather live in a world without smokers.

Bagchi ended his presentation by talking about insurance policies.

“The goal of redistribution is providing insurance,” Bagchi said. “The problem is we live in a world of risks and we need these redistribution programs. So what is the best way to give individuals some insurance of risk? I don’t think that question will ever be settled.”










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