Payoff the National Debt by Smoking

Did you know smokers save the United States government money?

According to USA Today’s referenced study, the average savings would be around $91k per person. If all 315 million U.S. citizens started smoking immediately the national debt (currently at an impossibly high $16.7 trillion dollars) would be erased. And we’d gain an eventual $12 trillion dollar surplus. If we factor in smoke breaks and extra sick leave for all of the unsightly lung issues, we can pretty safely assume a $6 trillion dollar profit.

So why did the government slowly put the squeeze on smoking?

One fact is clear: it wasn’t altruism.

Yes, nonsmokers are happier on average than smokers, but the argument made to enact smoking legislation was around revenue. The state and local revenue from taxing smoking is significant. It adds up to only $17 million in 2010, or around $340,000 per state. Meanwhile the cost of anti-smoking ads in 2012 was $54 million, moving to a svelte $48 million in 2013. The anti-smoking effort costs the U.S. $35+ million per year, not factoring in the $193 billion per year the CDC estimates in additional anti-smoking costs.

So smoking is the leading cause of death right?

Yes, according to the CDC smoking is the leading preventable cause of death.

But this ignores other obviously preventable causes. Heart disease is noted (on the same site) as causing 715,000 deaths per year and costs $44.2 billion. This means 1 in 4 will die because of heart disease in the United States. Isn’t this preventable too?

Those suffering from heart disease have been shown to be unhappy. While $85 million was spent in 2011 (across only 10 states) to inform people of better practices, the rate of heart disease

The U.S has spent $6 trillion on a drug war, while the most harmful lethal avenues are easily available.  People don’t die often from illicit drugs, vehicle accidents, or even firearms. If you added all three up in 2010 it is still 7x less than the leading cause: diseases of the heart.

Reality check: data as deciding factor.

How many of the links above did you click before you began skimming? I hate smoking, this post is really (secretly) about data.

When it comes to decision-making, a larger quantity of data is often less helpful. It overwhelms in a way that is requires effort to untangle. If it can’t be summed up in a tweet it isn’t able to pass public muster.

And so people vote with their heart instead of their mind – not because there’s too little evidence, but because there’s too much.