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Should Cigarettes Cost More?

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review posited that a pack of cigarettes should cost $25 to make up for the resulting healthcare costs caused by smoking. What do you think?

A recent article on the Harvard Business Review's blog surmised that one way to control rising healthcare costs would be to shift the burden to some of the root causes of sickness – in this particular case cigarettes and sugar.

The article was penned by a Dartmouth business professor and a consultant from an analytics firm who note that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated the resulting costs from smoking-related medical expenses and productivity loss work out to about $167 billion a year. That works out to 50 cents a cigarette, or about $10 a pack according to the authors. They also note the CDC puts the cost of diabetes-related medical costs and loss of work at about $174 billion a year, which they work out to about $8 per pound of sugar consumed by Americans every year. (The current wholesale sugar price is about 40 cents a pound.)

The authors suggest that rather than subsidizing these products, we pass those resulting costs on to the consumers. They suggest that $25-a-pack for cigarettes and $10-a-pound for sugar would cover not just healthcare costs, but also costs for re-training folks who work in those industries and programming for users who would like to curb their habits.

The authors suggest that creating disincentives for bad habits and encouraging healthy lifestyles will remold the healthcare industry into something not only more affordable, but healthier for all of us.

What do you think? I'm sure there are plenty of smokers out there who would rather not see the price of a pack of smokes go up any more than it already has and soda junkies that would prefer to not pay Starbucks-like prices for a can of coke. But if we can look past our own pockets for a moment and consider the greater good – should we all bear the costs of our own bad habits? 

I realize these are just two examples and there are plenty more vices that this math could apply to – alcohol, processed foods, trans fats, etc. It would be unfair to penalize one vice and leave the others unshackled. What's the answer?

Tell us what you think in the comments. You can read more about the issue here.

Pat Thomson November 26, 2012 at 04:56 PM
I can see cigarettes, but sugar? Not because sugar intake isn't a problem, but high fructose corn syrup is used in industrial food processing. I bet more people get their sweetener from the corn syrup than from sugar.
gerhard sweetman November 26, 2012 at 08:21 PM
7 deadly sins=glutton,tax fat people $9 per/lb
Michael J. November 27, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Let's do the same with alcohol. Alcoholism, DUI, health related problems, don't stop with cigarettes and sugar. $10.00 per case or fifth.
Jason November 30, 2012 at 02:36 AM
Why is it in this country we always make those of us who can control our sugar intake or like to smoke pay the higher cost? Why don't we attack the source. Crack down on the tobacco companies to provide a product without all the additives. Tobacco has been smoked long before there was health insurance and probably will be long after. Besides smoker already pay a higher premium. So then those with higher Blood sugar should as well. Leave the products themselves alone
Ike December 05, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Whiskey , beer wine , dont forget wine , all wine even the ones that cost more than most dinners. Ban them , why dont they , they make too much $ off of them. Cigs, if your going to moan about them , than you should moan about the drink. Sugar?

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