August 6, 2014

"[T]he federal government’s... cost-benefit calculation... assumes that the benefits from reducing smoking... have to be discounted by 70 percent to offset the loss in pleasure that smokers suffer when they give up their habit."

"Experts say that calculation wipes out most of the benefits from the regulations and could make them far more vulnerable to legal challenges from the tobacco industry. And it could have a perverse effect, experts said. The more successful regulators are at reducing smoking, the more it hurts them in the final economic accounting."

Experts, eh? Didn't experts also make the calculation?

36 comments:

Tyrone Slothrop said...

I quit eleven years ago this month. The physical memory of that first drag in the morning is still with me. Every time I get behind the wheel of my car I wish I had a cigarette. If I ever find out I have a month to live, I will go out and buy a carton of Player's Navy Cuts.

Has quitting been worth it? Absolutely.

Rob said...

Quantifying happiness was all the rage when it promised to make the U.S. more like Bhutan, not so much when it might stand in the way of anti-smoking measures. That makes me happy.

tim maguire said...

The last thing the health NAZI's want is an honest cost-benefit calculation for smoking. Of course, they are helped by the fact that the cigarette manufacturers don't want one either.

Anonymous said...

Smoking is good for the economy. People who die from smoking-related illnesses cost far less taxpayer money than nonsmokers to live to old age and end up in nursing homes.

Peter

Revenant said...

My goodness -- you mean that people engage in vices because they *enjoy* them, and not just because clever marketers have tricked them into doing it?

This could revolutionize nanny-state policies of Left and Right alike!

khesanh0802 said...

Notice that Jonathan Gruber - yes, that Jonathan Gruber - is one of the authors of the reference work. He, of course, is claiming that his work is being misinterpreted. Again. The folks at MIT must be immensely proud of this guy!

gadfly said...

Social science likes the terminology of real science. "Cost-benefit" analysis requires hard data not theory which starts with "what if."

Folks like me who have successfully kicked severe smoking habits (I smoked for 32 years and quit at 2 1/2 packs per day of Merits) know damn well that there was no enjoyment or satisfaction in the drug addition to nicotine.

When the habit is finally kicked, it is obvious that the nicotine addition was easy to overcome (four days to get it our of your body) but the holdover of the infant sucking syndrome is what kept the damn things in your mouth for so long.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

It is 71% not 70%, otherwise everything else is perfectly True, as if from God's mouth and nothing less.

jimbino said...

I wish we could apply the same cost-benefit analysis to the kids and pets of others for which the externalities include high taxes, pollution of grocery aisles, feces all over and zoonoses.

John said...

I quite in February 1971. Haven't smoked since.

Well, a joint or two in 73 but never any tobacco.

It took me 10-15 years to kick the habit in the sense of wanting one. I still have the occasional dream in which I am smoking and am upset about relapsing.

I quit cold turkey after having tried half a dozen times to Quit gradually. Wasn't even planning on doing it. I was sitting in traffic on Admiral Taussig blvd in Norfolk, started to light one up and thought "This is nuts." Threw the whole pack out the window.

It was a very tough habit to kick.

John Henry

furious_a said...

That and reducing smoking takes a bite out of the tax man's cut...which, state/fed/local together, per-pack is bigger than the cigarette makers' margins.

furious_a said...

Did Jonathan Gruber get paid $400K for his reference work here as he was for his reference work on the state-run health marketplace subsidies?

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

How about the health problems of the weight gain from quitting smoking? I gained 20 pounds when I quit. I still haven't lost those pounds.

As for loss of enjoyment. Absolutely. I'm with Tyrone. If I'm gonna die, Imma gonna smoke 'em!

Be said...

Grew up in a family of chain smokers and heavy drinkers. Could never understand the enjoyment of nicotine, because every time I'd take a drag on a cigarette, would end up coughing like a consumptive.

Alcohol's far more insidious. Could see becoming addicted to that.

Is this a Pleasure thing, or an avoidance of Pain of Withdrawal? Will have to go back again to look at how the Experts are defining that term.

Be said...

gadfly:

I have this holdover from the infant sucking thing: fetishing cloth with the fingers. It makes a satisfying clicking sound / crisp feeling. Particularly on woven cotton.


The Godfather said...

What business is it of the Government to weigh the costs and benefits of my private pleasures? If I decide to smoke and am willing to accept the consequences for my health, the Government has no right and no basis to decide whether my lost pleasure justifies my probable reduction in life span. The Government doesn't own my life; I do.

I gave up smoking 30 years ago this past February. I don't miss it at all. If I were standing in front of a firing squad, I'd turn down the traditional last cigarette (I'd accept the traditional last Martini). But that was my decision, made for me, by me. It reflects my own cost-benefit analysis. Screw anybody else's.

William said...

I smoked a pack per day. Having a cigarette gratified the urge to have a cigarette. It's nice to have an urge gratified, that so rarely happens in life. Still, that's a pretty lax definition of happiness. However, I have to say that the process of giving them up can easily be defined as misery.......I wonder where they got the 70% figure. Why not 65 or 80%? Any possibility we're being played?

Amy said...

I did some work with a non profit aimed at preventing teens from starting to smoke. Their literature said that after approx 100 cigarettes (5 packs x 20) the brain goes through permanent changes in regard to the addiction. THAT is why even long time quitters STILL have the craving and the commenters in this thread say they would resume if they had a short time to live.
So this group's mission was to stop teens from starting at all.
Based on the comments here, it is a prudent approach.

AJ Lynch said...

If we could get every smoker to quit, we'd see a huge spike up in the number of fat people who'd get diabetes yet still longer and collect social security & medicare longer than the average smoker so it would cost us more money.

God - these experts are dumb asses. I wonder how much they got paid to do that study.

AJ Lynch said...

I quit 17 years ago and still like the smell of cigarette when I pass by some smoking a cigarette. When I go to Vegas every 4 years or so, I buy a pack of cigarettes. The last time there I could barely smoke even one cigarette because it just tasted awful.

Michael K said...

My ex-wife quit and the hardest thing for her was when the telephone rang. She used to light a cigarette when she talked on the telephone and that was the trigger for the urge.

The feds have maybe figured out that people like the things that aren't good for you. Like Michelle and those damn kids that won't eat her lunches.

Original Mike said...

Think how much easier it would be if government just left the smokers (and every one else) alone.

You know. Freedom.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

John said...

I quit cold turkey after having tried half a dozen times to Quit gradually.


Ditto. Snuff, Nicorette, "tapering off". all useless.

Then one day I was out of smokes and my wife was going to the supermarket. At last, I could no longer make my sweet wife an accessory to my suicide by asking her to buy me cigarettes. From then on it was if a curtain had gone down. I still had the craving, but it was as if taking nicotine in any form had become as impossible as a trip to Neptune. I have the dreams too, but they are becoming less frequent.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Nearly 10% of cancer survivors smoke, despite risks

tim in vermont said...

"I wish we could apply the same cost-benefit analysis to the kids and pets of others for which the externalities include high taxes, pollution of grocery aisles, feces all over and zoonoses."

Who is going to take care of an old misanthrope like you will be in your dotage? Other people's children Jimbino.

You know you could buy 100 acres in the Adirondacks for next to nothing, park your trailer on it, get a 30.06 and shoot anything that threatens to crap anywhere near your home.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy cigarettes, alcohol and meth. Please don't make me give up cigarettes.

Hunter said...

A great way to reduce tobacco use is to encourage smokers to switch to vaping (aka e-cigs) which has no tar, no known carcinogens, no carbon monoxide. Second-hand vapor also carries none of the health risks of second-hand smoke.

But no... people who insisted on banning tobacco everywhere, even outdoors, impose the same rules on water vapor. Nobody seems to care whether there is any rational justification for treating vapor the same as deadly tobacco smoke. Having won the war on tobacco, they are not about to let smokers slip through a loophole and escape having their vices regulated.

Even if all the supposed reasons for regulating that vice don't apply... because of course it never really was about health. It was about control, and conforming society to the preference of those who know what's best for everybody.

David said...

Loss of the pleasure of smoking? I smoked for 15 years, and even when smoking I would not have called it a pleasure. Pose, addiction, anxiety reliever, habit, social activity, distraction, social convention all come to mind. It was not a pleasure, just something you did.

It's been over 40 years since I had a puff of a cigarette. I will not smoke a cigar, a joint, anything out of concern about relapse. The notion that I might go back gives me the willies. But I won't go back. Thank God.

William summarized smoking very well earlier in the thread.

Having a cigarette gratified the urge to have a cigarette. It's nice to have an urge gratified, that so rarely happens in life. Still, that's a pretty lax definition of happiness. However, I have to say that the process of giving them up can easily be defined as misery.......

That is the best short summary of it I've ever seen.

jimbino said...

Tim in Vermont, you must be nuts.

In my dotage, I'll hire Latinos to take care of me, just like I do now for home construction, maintenance, etc. My dad did that in his later years, even though he had four well-off children.

Why would I want to have a kid that costs me over $12,000 to birth and some $250,000 of my money to bring through high school and another $200,000 of taxpayer funds to mis-educate K-12, not to mention college?

You can't shoot a kid, even in the Adirondacks; hell, they call the cops on you if you try to talk to one in a playground! And in Texas it is a felony to shoot a cat that is not your own.

It is the opposite of misanthropic to stop the breeding that is making life difficult and dangerous for existing people of this planet.

Smilin' Jack said...

""[T]he federal government’s... cost-benefit calculation... assumes that the benefits from reducing smoking... have to be discounted by 70 percent to offset the loss in pleasure that smokers suffer when they give up their habit.""

But it also fails to take into account the great gain in pleasure we non-smokers feel in being freed from the presence of hacking, wheezing, leather-faced stinkbombs. And their suffering only adds to that pleasure.

Mr. D said...

Quit smoking 24 years ago. The key was giving away my lighter. If you have to make an effort to light up a smoke, you have enough time fight off the urge.

Bryan C said...

"The idea of lost happiness is new for health regulation."

Today's regulators and "experts" seem really, really bad at anticipating second-order effects. They get very upset with us about this.

Peter said...

BUT there's also pleasure in quitting.

Those who quit will find they don't get winded as rapidly; it's really a significant difference even when one is young. One also loses the nicotine stains, and (eventually) the smell that clings to clothes, cars, and your residence, you, everything. And one loses the need to always have a supply of cigarettes on hand and the need for those emergency trips to get more.

Plus the satisfaction that one had the willpower to do it.

As for the F.D.A. economists, I'd really like to see the methodology they used to quantify this. Smokers will certainly pay to keep smoking, but due to the addictive power of the cigarettes it's not an entirely free choice. The value of smoking changes after quitting, when it's no longer (as strong of) a compulsion.

Of course, even those who would like to quit procrastinate: it's always easier to quit tomorrow.

Unknown said...

uh oh, there goes my argument that male homosexuality should be discouraged to reduce the impact of AIDS and HIV on society. "It makes them happy."

Revenant said...

If quitting was as much fun as smoking, there wouldn't be any smokers.

Rooted in Him said...

Over the years, a hundred million people have made billions of personal decisions to extract pleasure from smoking tobacco in all of its myriad forms. We call these people "smokers." They know why they are smoking.

A handful of experts come along, with brilliant minds and the most advanced computers known to man, apply their theories and algorithms to the smokers. We call these people social scientists. They try to figure out how much value smoking is to the smokers so they can put it into their calculations.

This is an version of what is called "the knowledge problem." The hundred million smokers know why they value smoking. The handful of scientists can only guess.