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Study says smoking next pack
costs men $222, women $94

John R. Polito

Rick, a College of Charleston student, holds a sign upon which he has written, Rick, age 28, started at age 16, I've spent approximately $17,500 on cigarettes.  What if Rick knew the real cost?How many smokers would be able to afford that next pack of cigarettes if they had to pay in advance the full cost of smoking them? Chemically captive to an endless cycle of bouncing between insula pathway urges, craves and anxieties, and dopamine pathway "aaah" reward sensations, few ever stop to reflect upon the lost income their slow-suicide and premature passing will eventually cost them and their loved ones.

What is the full cost of a smoker killing themselves early? A study now in press for the Journal of Health Economics found that the "economic value of the premature mortality due to smoking dwarfs the purchase price of cigarettes." According to the study, the 2006 mortality cost per pack for men was $222 and for women $94.

The study, authored by Vanderbilt University Law School economics Professors W. Kip Viscusi and Joni Hersch, statistically determined the per cigarette pack price of the economic value of life lost by the average smoker.

Gender, ethnic origin, marital status, smoking status, age of regular smoking, age of death, hourly wages, annual hours worked, job injury, fatality risk, number of packs of cigarettes smoked per year, years of education, part-time work, type of work, regional wage differences, the study weaves scores of statistics into mathematical formulas, resulting in what is likely the most detailed economic smoking cost analysis ever.

But why a $128 dollar per pack price difference between male and female smokers?

According to Professors Viscusi and Hersch, "the sources of the gender difference include the greater mortality effect of smoking on men, the nearer term impact of these mortality losses for men, and the greater value of statistical life for men due to their higher wage rate."

The study's $94 per pack female smoker price was established based upon statistics showing that the average 24 year-old female smoker smokes an average of 12 cigarettes per day, climbing to a peak of 16 cigarettes a day by age 54, while the male's $222 per pack figure is grounded in the average 24 year-old male smoker smoking 14 per day, increasing to a peak of 20 per day by age 54.

Whether male or female, obviously, smoking more cigarettes per day or earning greater wages than this study's "averages" would cause a smoker's true per pack price to be significantly higher.

The next time you plop your hard earned money down on the sales counter try to picture the full cost. If that picture is disturbing, visit the Internet and master the "Law of Addiction," the most important quitting lesson of all. Knowledge and understanding truly is a quitting method.

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Written 04/05/08 and page reformatted 08/07/18 by John R. Polito