Smoking Costs Americans 5X More Than Shoplifting, Notes America's First Antismoking Organization

Today's report that shoplifting costs the average American family about $425 each year is nothing compared to the costs imposed by smoking, which are almost five times higher, and about which something can easily be done, says ASH.
By: Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
Oct. 19, 2010 - PRLog -- Today's report that shoplifting costs the average American family about $425 each year is nothing compared to the costs imposed by smoking, which are almost five times higher, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf, Executive Director of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), America's first antismoking organization.

According to the Center for Retail Research, stolen goods cost U.S. retailers about $40 billion a year.  But smoking costs the American economy almost $200 billion a year; most of which is paid for by nonsmokers in the form of higher taxes for grossly inflated medical and related costs under Medicare, Medicaid, and other government programs; higher disability, more sick days, and related costs to employers; and ever-ballooning health insurance costs paid by nonsmoking workers as well as by their employers.

Indeed, a recent report showed that, in additional costs to businesses which are usually passed along to consumers, smokers average about four 15-minute smoking breaks a day, wasting an employer more than a year of the smoker's working life and corresponding wages.  Yet most employers don't reduce smokers' pay or permit nonsmokers similar break time.

Unlike shoplifting, which can be very difficult as well as expense to reduce significantly, and where the initiative must largely be undertaken by individual corporations, a number of simple, well known, and very inexpensive steps can be taken to slash the rate of smoking, thereby saving families far in unnecessary costs than even a complete end to all shoplifting would accomplish.

Banning smoking in workplaces and public places sharply reduces the incidence of smoking by making it inconvenient and difficult for smokers to continue with their habit.  This can be done at zero cost.

Raising the taxes on cigarettes has also been proven to cut smoking and, even if many do stop smoking, overall revenue nevertheless increases.  Thus the cost of cutting smoking is less than zero.

Corporations, both under existing law and the new health care reform legislation, can charge smokers far more for their health insurance than nonsmokers.  This forces smoking workers, rather than the great majority who do not smoke, to bear more of the costs their habit imposes.

This technique, which surveys show is strongly supported by the public, is already being done by a growing number of private corporation, and by more than a dozen states, one of which even does it for its Medicaid programs.  The cost to do this is virtually zero, but it is fairer to the great majority of workers who do not smoke, and should not be forced to pay thousands of dollars more each years because a small minority do.

Banzhaf notes that each smoking worker can cost his employer over $12,000 a year, according to testimony taken under oath in a court proceeding, holding that it is both lawful and constitutional for a governmental body to refuse to hire smokers.$12000

Antismoking messages and other educational campaigns, as well as smoking cessation assistance, do cost money, but many studies show that they are still cost effective because the money saved by reducing smoking more than covers the costs of the programs.

"Yes, citizens should be concerned about the enormous costs of shoplifting.  But they should be much more concerned about the costs of smoking - both because they are much larger, and also because they can easily be slashed at virtually no cost," says Banzhaf of ASH.

Basic fairness dictates that these costs should be shifted, in so far as is possible, to those who impose them on others, something which can't be done with shoplifting, argues Banzhaf.

Professor of Public Interest Law at GWU,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
FELLOW, World Technology Network, and
Executive Director and Chief Counsel
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
America’s First Antismoking Organization
2013 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006, USA
(202) 659-4310 // (703) 527-8418

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Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), America's first anti-smoking and nonsmokers' rights organization, serves as the legal action arm of the anti-smoking community. It is supported by tax-deductible contributions.
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