Out of morbid curiosity, I decided to do a quick out-by-backside numbers game to determine if cigarettes cost more than they "earn." First, let me say that if there ever was a definitive study one way or another, the government wouldn't be looking for our opinions on the matter. The law would be laid down! That being said, my standard consulting fee is $100 per hour plus expenses and I'll do my best to make sure you like the results.
Ok, let's turn the "if you stopped smoking now" numbers right back around.
Let's give the average pack-a-day smoker a lifespan of 20 years from the moment he starts smoking. Most people who smoke make it to 40, right? Even the anti-smoking commercials don't cite anything less than "she was thirty-five!" as an extremely premature smoking death. Most smokers start early (teens) and live to this ripe old age. Since I started at 21, I chose 20-40 because my family members who smoke are well into their fifties. In case you don't see it, I'm TRYING to low-ball a smoker's chances here.
Now, assume $3.00 per pack (which is like stealing a pack) for a pack-a-day smoker. Near the end of my smoking career, I could do a pack on a really bad day. 1/2 that in taxes is the standard claim: $1.50. I'm bad at math, but I put that at $10,950 in taxes over the twenty years.
Ok. That's about thirty seconds of care in a hospital. But we forgot interest! Bank that money at 2% (assuming the government can find a way to earn that much) and it becomes $13,000. That still sucks, but If I use 10% (a figure that I mostly pulled out of thin air, but could be obtained with WISE investing) I've got $31,000.
That's still not enough money to die on under hospital care. Would $100,000 seem more reasonable? At 10% interest, I get there in 32 years. 5% takes almost fifty years. So, it's starting to look not so good for cigarettes.
But, we're also assuming at this point that the state is paying 100% of the medical costs for smokers (FAT CHANCE!). Many smokers are paying inflated premiums on health care so that they can afford to die without being too much of a burden. And, since smokers die early, they save the government in retirement benefits.
I will leave it up to you to decide whether there are enough smokers paying taxes to offset the cost of health care for smokers without insurance. But, my thought is that there must be enough money in tobacco, or the lawmakers would be out making the case over the cost of smoking.
The real argument right now, in my mind, is over which end of the filter is safer. The anti-smoking crowd is now trying to convince me that I was better off with the cigarette in my mouth than I am with it hanging in the air.PS: I do realize the ridiculousness of placing non-smoking tables next to smoking ones, or in poorly ventilated areas. But, let's deal with THAT issue instead. Perhaps if businesses are required to upgrade ventilation, they will decide to go smoke free instead and the true social experiment can begin.