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Why It's a Very Merry Christmas for Nonsmokers // More Protections, Less Burden From Smoking's Costs
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Dec. 24, 2013): It's an especially Merry Christmas for nonsmokers this year since they will enjoy more protections and bear less of the costly financial burdens of smoking than ever before
Here are just some of the reasons why.
Under Obamacare, smokers are being charged up to 50% more for their health insurance than nonsmokers and, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, the British Medical Journal, and elsewhere, imposing a smoker surcharge can slash smoking rates among employees by 50%.
"This is the first time that smokers are being forced to accept some personal responsibility for their habit," says Banzhaf, who lobbied for the smoker surcharge. Smoking costs the American economy some $300 billion a year, and each smoking worker can cost his employer over $12,000 more each year. So, as smoking is reduced, businesses have more money for nonsmoking employers, taxpayers pay lower taxes, and insurance rates for over 80% of all Americans are lower than they would otherwise be.
Well over 100 jurisdictions - including New Jersey, North Dakota, and Utah, and many major cities including Boston, Seattle, and Indianapolis - have now banned the use of e-cigarettes in any place where the smoking of conventional cigarettes is prohibited. Their vapor contains propylene glycol (a respiratory irritant known to cause respiratory tract infections), nicotine (a highly addictive and deadly drug which can trigger heart attacks), and several chemicals the FDA terms “harmful and potentially harmful.”
Since so many states followed the lead of the Big Apple when it first banned smoking in workplaces, restaurants, and bars, it's likely that many additional states will again follow NYC and restrict the smoking of e-cigarettes after NYC adopted its comprehensive ban just last week to protect nonsmokers.
Banzhaf was one of the first to publicize the dangers e-cigarettes pose to bystanders - especially to children, the elderly, and those with a wide variety of medical conditions - and helped get the initial bans in New Jersey and elsewhere adopted. Since NYC also passed a law raising the legal age to purchase cigarettes from 18 to 21, it's likely that other states will also follow this lead.
Many states - including Hawaii, New Mexico, New York, South Carolina, Utah, and Washington - continue to raise their cigarette taxes, with many cities and other jurisdictions doing the same.
The highest tax as the year ends in $5.85/pack. As a result, the great majority of taxpayers are paying lower taxes, and smokers are being forced to bear more of the financial burden or quit.
In other areas, legislators and judges are increasingly willing to protect tenants bothered by drifting and/or recirculating tobacco smoke from other apartments and condos, more companies are declining to hire smokers, there are more laws banning smoking in cars when a child is present, and there is growing public support for hitting smokers with hiring bans, higher taxes/surcharges, and other measures.
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
2000 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20052, USA
(202) 994-7229 // (703) 527-8418
GWU Law School
202 994-7229 / 703 527-8418