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Cost of Smoking, Obesity More Personal than Public

Big Tobacco may want a refund.
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Nearly a decade after 46 states signed a historic settlement agreement
with cigarette manufacturers to recoup the cost of treating ill
smokers, a computer model created
by Dutch economists shows that smokers actually run up fewer lifetime
medical costs than either obese people or people with healthy

It’s not that cigarettes are harmless or even good for you, as some of the old ads used to imply — on the contrary. “Because of differences in life expectancy,” explains the study, “lifetime health expenditure was highest among healthy-living people and lowest for smokers.” In other words, lead author Pieter H. M. van Baal told the Associated Press, “Lung cancer is a cheap disease to treat because people don’t survive very long. But if they are old enough to get Alzheimer’s one day, they may survive longer and cost more.” No wonder economics is called the dismal science. The study’s authors do note, however, that reducing obesity and rates of smoking has other benefits to society.

Earlier story: Enticing health insurers to pay for prevention