published Monday, April 11th, 2011

What does smoking cost?

People who smoke don’t usually want to count the cost of a pack or more of cigarettes a day. And those who suffer cancer, emphysema or other smoking-related diseases surely do not like to think of what their habit costs in terms of doctor and hospital visits.

But really, in individual terms, the worst “cost” is not monetary: It involves health and quality of life.

Costs matter, though, and with Medicaid in Arizona running short of cash, there reportedly is consideration there of levying an annual $50 “tax” on those who smoke, are overweight or suffer diabetes.

Would that discourage smoking? Probably not much. And the suggested tax would be a drop in the bucket as compared with smoking-related spending through Medicaid, Medicare, etc.

But an official with an Arizona health care program said the $50 tax would be an incentive for patients to avoid smoking and the problems it brings.

“It engages the consumers to start having a greater awareness of how they fit into the bigger health care puzzle,” an Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System spokeswoman told The Associated Press.

“We want to stretch our dollars as far as we can. Part of that is engaging people to take better care of themselves.”

Do you think an additional tax on smokers will do much good? Tobacco taxes already are collected with the sale of each pack. And smokers who are hooked already “tax” themselves hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year by buying cigarettes — and paying much greater health care costs.

Everybody knows smoking is a bad habit. But many of us unfortunately have lots of bad habits that threaten or damage our health in a wide variety of ways. It’s too bad we all don’t just “do the right thing” and use our common sense for self-preservation — without adding another tax.

We already have too many taxes of various kinds that “may be hazardous to our health.”

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