UCSF: If you raise cigarette taxes, we can save pretend money

Posted By News On February 13, 2013 - 10:30pm

Over the last 20 years, California's tobacco control program cost $2.4 billion - that is real money - but it reduced health care costs by $134 billion in pretend money, according to a new estimate from the director of the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.

Additionally, the paper, covering the beginning of the program in 1989 to 2008,- found that the state program helped lead to some 6.8 billion fewer packs of cigarettes being sold that would have been worth $28.5 billion in sales to evil cigarette companies.

So California raised taxes on cigarettes, making itself more reliant on that money to fund services, and then also used the money to buy ad campaigns against smoking. They advertised to wipe out the market they were more reliant on.

The estimate was designed to gauge the fiscal impact of California's large public health program on smoking prevalence and cigarette consumption. The paper claims that tobacco control funding is directly tied to reductions in both the prevalence of smoking and cigarette consumption per smoker – and generates significant savings in overall health care expenditures.

Savings? That's not real money. Obviously if $2.4 billion saved $134 billion, why not spend $4.8 billion and wipe out California's deficit completely? Because you would be out almost five billion dollars with no idea if you save d anything or not, outside the world of agenda economics.

The authors obtained these estimates by comparing smoking and health costs in California with 38 other states that did not have substantial state tobacco control programs or cigarette tax increases prior to 2000. In other words, it is basically made up.

"These health care cost savings began to appear almost immediately after the program started and have grown over time, reaching more than $25 billion a year in 2008," said first author James Lightwood, PhD, a UCSF associate professor of clinical pharmacy.

Here's how they derive it: They use the estimate that every year an estimated 443,000 people in the United States die from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - the problem is there is not a single death that can really be attributed to second-hand smoke and even first-hand smoke is fuzzy. Half of lung cancer patients never smoked and only 10 percent of smokers get lung cancer so trying to broaden the pool by making all those deaths due to cigarettes is more agenda than data. Still, don't smoke, it's bad for you in numerous other ways, they just don't all lead to death.

Another 8.6 million people suffer from a serious smoking-related illness, they say. But the kicker is the claim that annual costs associated with smoking-related illness are billions in medical expenses and lost productivity, and 5.1 million years of potential life lost in the United States - the CDC says that stuff and then wonders why the public does not trust them on vaccines or food or anything else.

The estimated health care expenditures associated with smoking analyzed in the study included the short and long term direct effects on not only smokers but the effects of second- and third-hand smoke exposure to nonsmokers. Never heard of third hand smoke? That ridiculous claim is that particles left over on your clothes if you didn't breathe smoke but walked through a room that once had smoking in it will give you cancer.

The paper is just another effort to vilify smokers, since for some reason we have not just banned smoking. California voters passed Proposition 99 in 1988, not realizing their taxes would just make ad agencies rich, by engaging in an aggressive media campaign with community programs emphasizing three themes:

  • That the tobacco industry lies;
  • That nicotine is addictive;
  • That secondhand smoke kills.

The tobacco industry does not lie any more, but San Francisco academics are trapped in the 1960s. And there is zero evidence second-hand smoke kills, which leaves 'nicotine is addictive'. You are welcome for the $2.4 billion to tell people that.

The new UCSF paper is just a 'publish or perish' update of the same paper by the same authors, adding five years of data and a newer economic estimate. The earlier paper covered 1989 through 2004.

The researchers found a significant association between cumulative per capita tobacco control funding and both smoking prevalence and cigarette consumption per smoker - in other words, legislating out places where people could smoke and putting higher taxes on cigarettes led to less smoking. They claim every cumulate per capita hundred dollars spent on the state's tobacco control wound up reducing smoking prevalence by 5 percent and reduced cigarette consumption per smoker by 139 packs a year - so if we just spend $2,000 per person there would be no smoking?.

Both a reduction in the percentage and number of people smoking, and the numbers of packs each remaining smoker consumed contributed to dropping health care costs, they claim. The reduction in smoking prevalence accounted for 36 percent of the health care cost savings, with the rest due to less consumption among continuing smokers.

"The results show that the California tobacco control program had a substantial effect on both smoking prevalence and cigarette consumption per smoker, and both in turn had a substantial effect on per capita health care expenditures," the study concluded.

Voters turned down Proposition 29 last year, which would have increased the tobacco tax even more - they have seen enough ads.

The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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