New research conducted at Vanderbilt University, on the heels of yet another tax increase on tobacco products, shows unequivocally that every pack of cigarettes smoked saves the country 32 cents. That’s right, smokers actually save this country money. Although smokers cost $96 billion a year in direct health care costs and an additional $97 billion a year in lost productivity, they die sooner than non-smokers by about ten years. That additional ten years of life would cost more in general living expenses and further health care costs (Dutch researchers showed last year that smokers cost $326,000 from age 20 on, compared to about $417,000 for thin and healthy people). So why the witch hunt? Well let’s check it out.
What’s the tenor we live by? Life is good, death is bad; avoid death at all costs, right? Truth is that most people don’t want to think about death at all. But let’s not forget about the benefits: Death allows space and resources for new life forms. It maintains the constancy of energy flow. So why do we strive so earnestly to preserve individual life above all else?
Here’s my point: It seems that the goal of modern health care is to maintain life at all costs. Noble, yes, but not necessarily advantageous to humanity as a whole. It also forces us to vilify certain behaviors, certain indulgences–like smoking or obesity or promiscuous sex–that just don’t fit into the “we must live as long as we can” theme.
But I personally appreciate quality of life greatly. Now in that vein, I think smoking can be a detriment to having a quality life–that is, if you value being active, then you probably don’t want to smoke. I speak from experience on this–I smoked cigarettes for twenty years and my life is tremendously better now as a non-smoker for a multitude of reasons. However, I do admit that there were loads of benefits to smoking: it was something I enjoyed immensely to say the least (I talk at length about this in my book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health). So which is more important? I guess every individual needs to decide for himself; but either way, I’ll go with quality of life over quantity anytime.
That’s why I laugh when I see studies like the one above. It goes to show you that some things just aren’t what they seem; and thank goodness for people who actually take the time to think about them in their entirety. I’ll leave you with this: There are many benefits to not smoking, to being physically fit, and to caring for one’s health, no doubt–it definitely is the life I love to live. Saying that, however, there are also benefits to smoking, eating whatever you want, and focusing on things other than health. It’s your call. But don’t let ‘em tell you it costs society more–that’s a political game.