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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Smoking takes years off your life and adds dollars to the cost of health care. Yet nonsmokers cost society money, too - by living longer.
It's an element of the debate over tobacco that some economists and officials find distasteful.
House members described huge health care costs associated with smoking as they approved landmark legislation last week giving the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco products. No one mentioned the additional costs to society of caring for a nonsmoking population that lives longer.
Supporters of the FDA bill cited figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that smokers cost the country $96 billion a year in direct health care costs, and an additional $97 billion a year in lost productivity.
A White House statement supporting the bill, which awaits action in the Senate, echoed the argument by contending that tobacco use "accounts for over a $100 billion annually in financial costs to the economy."
Vanderbilt University economist Kip Viscusi studied the net costs of smoking-related spending and savings and found that for every pack of cigarettes smoked, the country reaps a net cost savings of 32 cents.
A Dutch study published last year in the Public Library of Science Medicine journal said that health care costs for smokers were about $326,000 from age 20 on, compared to about $417,000 for thin and healthy people.