Smoking Saves Government Money

I enjoyed this new George Will column about tobacco lawsuit abuse, perhaps because I made some of the same points myself, back in 1999:

…the government does not lose money from smoking; it profits from it.

…because smokers have an 18-36 percent chance of dying sooner than they would if they did not smoke, smokers tend to use substantially less Social Security and Medicare benefits and other expensive government programs. This saves the government approximately 32 cents for every pack of cigarettes sold.

In addition to saving 32 cents per pack, says [Professor W. Kip] Viscusi, government taxes average 53 cents per pack.So government profits 85 cents per pack of cigarettes sold in the United States. This figure, incidentally, does not include the $246 billion tobacco companies agreed to give state governments last year to settle state-initiated lawsuits.

Meanwhile, according to the New York Times, tobacco companies make an average profit of 28 cents per pack.

Government profits from tobacco more than tobacco companies do.

My conclusion: If you see yourself as a government wage slave, by all means, smoke. Aside from the expense to you and the inconvenience of possible premature death or unnecessary illness, it is a nice thing to do for your fellow citizens.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.