Deficit Reduction Commission Ignored/Spared Smokers

The Deficit Reduction Commission totally ignored the major controllable cause of health care expenditures and completely spared the cause, even while proposing sacrifices for innocent bystanders like doctors, hospitals, medical students, patients.
By: Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
Dec. 13, 2010 - PRLog -- "Federal health care spending represents our single largest fiscal challenge over the long-run," according to the Deficit Reduction Commission, yet the body totally ignored the major controllable cause of health care expenditures and completely spared the cause, even while proposing sacrifices for innocent bystanders like doctors, hospitals, medical students, patients, etc. says Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).

Many of the health care proposals which the Commission made were controversial because they would require people who are not a cause of the problem to bear the burden, while not imposing any burden on those who are a major controllable cause of the deficit, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf of ASH, ticking off plans to save a few billion here and there at the expense of the needy, but declining to save almost $200 billion a year by targeting those who cause this huge cost - smokers.

For example, the Commission proposed to reform the "doc fix" to save only $3 billion a year, to slash a long-term care insurance program to save $11 billion, to save $6 billion by cutting into medical education, and to save a whopping $2 billion a year by reducing legal redress for injured patients, but it suggests nothing to reduce the almost $200 billion a year smoking costs the American economy - most of which, unfortunately, is now paid by nonsmokers in the form of higher taxes and bloated health insurance premiums.

A tax on the tobacco industry to require it to pay just half of what it costs us all each year would reduce the deficit by about $100 billion; far more than all the Commission's other health-related proposals combined, and one which is apparently supported by the majority of the public according to recent polls and surveys. It also places the burden directly on those who are a major cause of the deficit, and not on innocent bystanders like doctors, hospitals, medical students, patients, etc.

While such a tax increase might have been unthinkable as recently as a year ago, the Commission emphasized that we must now begin giving serious consideration to proposals which previously would have been unthinkable - and even considered a "third rail" - as we are being asked to make major sacrifices to preserve the country's financial health and avoid unduly burdening future generations.

Another approach would be to ban smoking in public places.  Since it is well documented that banning smoking in workplaces and public places is the major factor in persuading people to quit or not to start smoking, a federal ban on smoking, similar to that already enacted and working well in many states, would slash the totally unnecessary costs of smoking.  The cost to the federal government of such a policy would be zero, but it would reduce the deficit by tens of billions of dollars, argues Banzhaf.

As a alternative, the federal government could simply advise states that significant federal funds would be withheld if the state did not adopt nonsmokers' rights laws similar to those already working so well in many diverse states.  This zero-cost program would likewise help to slash the deficit by triggering a sharp reduction in smoking, while at the same time protecting the great majority of Americans who don't smoke from the many health problems causes by inhaling secondhand tobacco smoke - and their related health costs - as just outlined by the U.S. Surgeon General.

No innocent citizens would be forced to bear any burden, since only those actually causing the deficit by their smoking would be affected.  Moreover, they would be only mildly inconvenienced (by being forced to smoke outdoors) rather than financially burdened, and they could avoid even the mild inconvenience by quitting.

"Going after the major preventable cause of 'our single largest fiscal challenge' is a win-win-win proposition, because it slashes the deficit more than most of the other much-more-controversial Commission proposals, is targeted to those who are culpable rather than those who are completely innocent, and would substantially improve both the nation's health and the quality of its indoor air.  Imposing increased financial burdens on smokers - with only about 13% of the adult population smoking on a daily basis yet costing us almost $200 billion a year - is widely supported because it makes sense and is fair," argues Banzhaf.

If sacrifices have to be made, they should be made by those who are a major cause of the problem in the first place, says Prof. 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

# # #

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.
Source:Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
Email:*** Email Verified
Tags:Deficit Reduction, Commission, Smoking, Billion, Banzhaf, Taxes, Sacrifice
Industry:Health, Government, Business
Location:District of Columbia - United States

Like PRLog?
Click to Share