Sunday, November 4, 2007

More Thoughts on Smokers' Rights

Did you know that the cost of a pack of cigarettes averages $4.49, probably more now with the increase in taxes? A pack-a-day smoker, which is what I was for nearly 30 years, coughs up nearly $1,700 per year. But, as the rights people like to say, "Hey, it's their choice."

Did you know that smoking continues to be the leading cause of preventable death in the United States? An estimated 440,000 people were hacked off prematurely from 1995 through 1999.

Did you know that on average adult men and women smokers lose 13.2 and 14.5 years of life, respectively, because they smoke? My grandfather smoked and died of emphysema. It's a painful way to die, gasping for breath. Dobly painful for grandpa. He was unable to play with his grandchildren because the effort was too great for his burned out lungs.

I've got news for the rights people, it's painful to watch, too.

Did you know that the economic costs during the same period were $81.9 billion in productivity losses from deaths (average for 1995 to 1999) and $75.5 billion in excess medical expenditures in 1998? Productivity lost that affected those other than smokers. Excess medical expenditures that resulted in excess time being spent with smokers who had the choice, taking away time and money from those who chose more wisely.

Did you know that smoking during pregnancy results in more than 1,000 infant deaths annually? Some choice. Where are the anti-abortion forces?

Did you know that because of smokers, we all pay in higher taxes to fund government health care programs, like Medicare, and in higher health insurance premiums?

Did you know that secondhand smoke imposes significant costs on nonsmokers and society? The annual cost of excess medical care, mortality and morbidity from secondhand smoke exposure in the U.S. is approximately $10 billion. This includes approximately $5 billion in direct medical costs and approximately $5 billion in indirect costs, such as lost wages, reduced services and costs associated with disabilities per year.

Oh, did you know this stat includes those workers who are non-smokers but must endure the fumes offered up by the rights people?


I have a couple of additional rights that have been conveniently forgotten in the zeal to make a political point:

What about my right to breath clean, smoke-free air, or am I required to change my plans because of the poor choices of smokers.

What about my right to reasonably priced health insurance, which is adversely affected by the poor choices that smokers make?

What about the rights of my children not to be tempted into an unhealthy life style, and to not have to watch family members die a slow, painful death because of the poor choices smokers make.

There is no constitutionally-protected right to smoke. There is agreement, however, that government, which is selected by the people, can pass laws for the betterment of society, according to the standards the community agrees upon.

For example, pornography is legal, too, more legal in many ways than smoking ... the courts having determined that pornography is protected speech. But the courts have also determined that communities may make choices regarding the sale and distribution of pornography.

I have yet to find any free speech connection with inhaling noxious fumes. But I do know that communities have the right to decide how to handle poor choices.

17 comments:

  1. Good.

    Now handle people with AIDS...

    Same proposal? Cut them off from health insurance? Or just adjust their premiums for their voluntary activity which brings it on...?

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  2. I won't even dignify that with a response.

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  3. Just curious if anyone would change their arguments if they realized that the vast majority of studies in to second-hand smoke or environmental tobacco smoke or whatever you want to call it, have shown virtually NO RELATIONSHIP between exposure and disease risk!

    “””Environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality in a prospective study of Californians, 1960-98

    James E Enstrom, researcher1, Geoffrey C Kabat, associate professor2

    Participants 118 094 adults enrolled in late 1959 in the American Cancer Society cancer prevention study (CPS I), who were followed until 1998.

    Results For participants followed from 1960 until 1998…No significant associations were found for current or former exposure to environmental tobacco smoke before or after adjusting for seven confounders and before or after excluding participants with pre-existing disease. No significant associations were found during the shorter follow up periods of 1960-5, 1966-72, 1973-85, and 1973-98.”””

    Published in the prestigious British Medical Journal.

    http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/326/7398/1057?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=1&author1=enstrom&searchid=1063712558723_4332&stored_search=&FIRSTINDEX=0&sortspec=relevance&resourcetype=1,2,3,4,10

    The biggest hit on this particular study is that it received part of it’s funding from the tobacco industry. The actual TRUTH is that the funding was provided by THE AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY for about 90% of the study UNTIL preliminary results began coming out, at which point the ACS yanked the funding. In order to complete the study, the ONLY source of funding to be found was the tobacco industry.

    This is but one of many studies worldwide to show NO LINK between ETS and disease. In fact, when the EPA originally declared ETS a carcinogen, it cherry picked only about 1/4 of the data that supported it’s position while “throwing out” the other 3/4 of the available data that showed no risk. To the extent that the US Supreme Court ruled that the EPA had overstepped it’s bounds in the very declaration.

    Therefore, the entire basis of smoking bans are based on a massive disinformation campaign.

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  4. That's interesting. Dueling reports.

    I should tell you that my being in favor of smoking bans did not concentrate on the effects of secondhand smoke ... smoking in general attracts my ire.

    However, aside from the health detriments, I'm totally in favor of bans because I do not care to sit in the same room with smokers. Sorry (not really), my rights supersede yours to pollute the air with harmful carcinogens, or the awful smell.

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  5. I wish to state that, actually, I agree with public, indoor smoking bans. What I don't agree with is when it goes further than that. I feel I am a considerate smoker. I in no way advocate disregarding the rights of non-smokers. However, I do have a problem with the way in which these laws have been created using disinformation. Had these laws been passed using the "i don't like smoke" or "I hate the smell" type arguments, I feel they would have occurred in a much more honorable way. Using the second-hand smoke argument to achieve an agenda is where I have issues. Smoking today, who knows what tomorrow. Maybe outlawing, or restricting, the use of cologne or perfume because some people don't like smelling it? What is really the difference?

    Another point: At my place of employment, they do have an outdoor smoking patio. IT is over 50 YARDS from any entryway, across the parking lot so people walking in from their cars do not have to go near it, and over 50 feet from any sidewalks. Why, when I am in this area, do I still get dirty, nasty looks from people walking on the sidewalk over 50 feet away? What is the difference in how smokers are treated today then how people of color were treated 50+ years ago? I know, I know...smoking is a choice, skin color is not. But why should I be treated as I often am just because I smoke even when I am not bothering anyone with my smoking?

    Also, the health and lost productivity costs associated with smoking are often cited, however the tax incomes to the states and federal government never is. Maybe because the government takes in more in tobacco related taxes than those cited costs?

    I agree that you have the right to breath clean air as a non-smoker. I also feel I should have the right to smoke, as long as I don't dirty your air, without being treated as a second-class citizen.

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  6. I'd like to think I was a considerate smoker, too. I have to agree that outdoor smoking restrictions have gotten a bit out of hand. When I did smoke, I did feel I was viewed as somewhat second-class.

    When I went to restaurants and was in the company of non-smokers, I always held back from smoking and agreed heartily to sitting in non-smoking areas. But let's face it, not all smokers are so considerate.

    Thanks for your comments. FYI: Quitting can be done. I've quit for three years now. I often wondered whether I would ever again experience the feeling of being a non-smoker. After thirty years of smoking ... it feels great.

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  7. Yah, it's a bitch to apply the sauce to the ganders, eh?

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  8. You're a sad and pathetic old man.

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  9. The study you link to has an enormous flaw. It does not look at both sides of the equation. The conclusion it draws from it’s own numbers is incorrect. Lets look at the numbers, shall we? Let’s start with this one:

    “On average, adult men and women smokers lost 13.2 and 14.5 years of life, respectively, because they smoked.”

    Given that the average lifespan in the US is 75 for men and 80 for women so we can estimate the average lifespan for smokers in the US to be like 65 for men and 70 for women (I didn’t just subtract because smokers are part of the average and because round numbers are more fun). The next interesting number, and the really important one is this:

    “Economic costs during the same period were $81.9 billion in productivity losses from deaths (average for 1995 to 1999) and $75.5 billion in excess medical expenditures in 1998, according to the CDC.”

    Now what numbers do we need to know for these numbers to mean anything to us? Obviously, we need to know what the medical costs and losses of productivity are that associate with not smoking. Ya see, here’s the simple truth: smokers die early. More importantly, they die right after they retire. So they live most of their lives being productive and paying taxes. Then they die. They usually die of something that kills relatively quickly and doesn’t cost a lot of money. On the other hand, non-smokers work until about the same age, and then live on for years after they stop being productive and paying taxes (obviously old people still pay taxes, but less of them). They also get diseases that smokers don’t. Like Alzheimers and a bunch of other kinds of cancer. They go into assisted living situations and nursing homes for long periods of time. I guess my point is that you can’t just total up the medical costs associated with smokers and say this is what smoking costs. You have to total up the medical costs associated with smoking and subtract them from the medical costs those smokers would have incurred if they hadn’t smoked. Several studies have shown that smokers actually pay less in medical costs than non-smokers over the course of a lifetime. The reason for that is obvious. Dieing is cheap. Living is expensive.

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  10. I can guarantee to you that dieing of lung cancer or emphysema is not quick, painless or costless.

    Consequently, since smokers are the ones who are most likely to get those two diseases, amd since treatment is expensive ... *gong sound*.

    And, since these same pople will be out of work (because what you fail to note is that many die young), the loss of productivity is staggering ... *gong sound*.

    Look, you and others can make all the arguments against smoking bans, and/or taxation ... but in the end it just doesn't wash. Smoking is an expensive and harmful practice, and not just for the smoker.

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  11. Do you use "gong sound" in place of real arguments? How... witty.

    "I can guarantee to you that dieing of lung cancer or emphysema is not quick, painless or costless."

    Since you were talking about costs, "painless" doesn't really enter this deabte. But I will tell you this, dieing of lung cancer while you are 50 is CHEAPER than living relatively healthfully from age 60 to 70 but taking two or three pills every day, living in a nursing home from 70 to 77 and then having a minor stroke which puts you in the hospital for the last 4 days of your life. I mean, just do the math man. Even if you're hooked up to machines for a few weeks with lung cancer, it's cheaper than years in assisted living. *Gong Sound* [I can make gong counds too]

    "And, since these same pople will be out of work (because what you fail to note is that many die young), the loss of productivity is staggering ... *gong sound*."

    I didn't fail to note that many die young. Go read my comment again. *Gong sound* I explicitly stated that they died 13 or 14 years earlier on average using the numbers from the study you linked to.

    So some smokers die before they retire. But since the average age they die at is just a few years over 67, most do not die while they are still in their productive years. The loss of productivity is only staggering until you compare it to the gain of not paying them any social security payments (even though they paid their social security tax during their working years). *Gong sound*

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  12. Nah, first time I ever used the *gong sound*. Don't get so riled up. Sorry if it did.

    Anyway, I still think your numbers are off, but thanks for your comments.

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  13. Who's riled up? Anyway, don't you think that the numbers on the other side of the equation should at least be included in the study for the sake of honesty and disclosure? Why do you/they hide from those numbers?

    It's the same with every issue. Since this is my first time visiting your website, I don't want to get to preachy, but it just seems like Democrats and Republicans like you only want to look at the part of the data that supports their side. Illegal immigrants take jobs, but they also consume goods, which increases the number of jobs (arguably more than the number they occupy), other nations spend less on healthcare, but they also consume less healthcare. More gun control increases crime but it decreases suicide (within the US. Outside the US, more gun control decreases crime too). Obviously these are all incomplete pictures, but you get my point. I just think Democrats/Republicans should tell the whole story instead of painting these dishonest half-pictures.

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  14. But you're not providing me any numbers at all. All you're doing is making assumptions based on the numbers I gave you, with a little twisting around of the facts to suit your argument.

    I provided numbers from reputable and respected organizations. You molded my sources to fit, and provided nothing in return.

    You're welcome anytime, but don't go labeling me this and/or that without anything to back it up.

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  15. No, I'm not making assumptions and I'm not providing numbers. I didn't publish a study on the costs of smoking. My point is that the study you link to neglects to provide these numbers too even though the equation is terribly incomplete without them. I'm not even trying to argue that smoking is cheaper than not smokins so much as I'm arguing that the study you provided most certainly does not prove the opposite since it doesn't desclose all of the numbers neccesary to come to that conclusion.

    Was I incorrect in labeling you a Democrat/Republican? If so, sorry.

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  16. JIJWM: Fair enough, but just so we're right on here ... I'm against smoking and have no problem with any of the laws being passed to restrict or ban smoking. I smoked for thirty years and am the worst enemy of smoking now. I think many if not most ex-smokers are.

    FYI: I will admit to having voted primarily Democrat. I guess, though, I would call myself an unabashed liberal (though in my younger days, the classical definition of anarchist would have been most appropriate).

    I would have voted for Shirley Chisholm in 1972 when she ran, but two things stopped me: George McGovern was my idol and I wasn't old enough to vote. I voted for McGovern in 1976 even though he wasn't running and voted for Chisholm in 1980.

    I've voted for me ever since. I have yet to get more than three votes (mom and a sister voted for me in 2004).

    The current do-nothing Democratic -side of Congress makes me sick. Not as sick as the hypocrites on the Republican side, but close.

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  17. Well then, I apologize for lumping you in with either of those "parties."

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