One of the many weapons in the arsenal of the tobacco control industry is the financial cost to society as a whole, of tobacco use. If they can demonstrate that a non smoker is being hit in the wallet as a direct result of other people smoking, that non smoker should then become an anti smoker and join the crusade.
Tobacco taxes currently bring in around thirteen billion pounds per year to the treasury. In order to vilify tobacco as a drain on the economy, the tobacco control industry must demonstrate that tobacco taxes are swallowed up and then some by the ‘costs’ of smoking.
One of the many costs often cited is the loss of economic output from the death of smokers. That loss has been given a financial value of £4.1 billion in this pdf report from ASH.
This assumes that if a smoker dies at a younger age than they otherwise would have, the amount of economic output that could have been achieved in those missing can be given a monetary value and called a loss. There are many reasons why these missing years cannot be demonstrated financially and why they are in fact, not a loss economically.
We do not live in a society where we have full employment. If I died tomorrow, someone else would take over my job and the economic output of that role would continue on. My death would only be an economic loss if my employer was unable to replace me and the position remained open. Unlikely without full employment.
It is the job role that creates the economic output, not the person doing the job. Sure, one person may be slightly better than another and might achieve better results, pushing the output up a little, but over time, many different people will come and go in the role but the role continues.
I’ve heard it said (by a Lancashire Telegraph reporter) that an employer might invest a great deal of money in an employee over time. If they were to then die early, this could be classed as a financial cost to the employer because they have lost their investment.
This assumes a long term of employment, probably over many years. My longest jobs have been seven years, eight years and now nearly six years. In all three jobs my employers have invested money in me in the form of training. When I left the first two, both employers bid me a fond farewell. Neither of them complained about the loss of their investment.
Employers have a budget for training and other investment in employees. Every time someone leaves a role and is replaced by someone else, a bit of this budget is spent. Every time someone receives a promotion or transfer, some of this budget is spent. An employee dying is no different to an employee taking a job with another company, financially speaking.
Also, if a person has been with a company for many years and has been heavily invested in, that person is more likely to be retiring in their fifties than they are to carry on working until state pension age. The more an employer invests in an employee, the more likely that person is to be in a situation where they can afford to retire younger.
The tobacco control industry does not seem to consider early retirement to be a drain on the economy that you can quantify financially, but early death, they do.
And why would that be? If you work, produce and pay your taxes all your life then drop dead at fifty nine from heart disease, you’ve contributed to the system all your life yet taken nothing out. As a smoker you’ve actually contributed a lot more than most.
If you work, produce and pay your taxes but live to the ripe old age of a hundred, there’s likely to become a time when you stop contributing and start taking some back. This could just be taking retirement and receiving your state pension. It could go as far as spending a couple of decades in a nursing home under the care of the NHS. A very expensive proposition.
I won’t try to quantify the cost to society of not dying early as it cannot be done. I may drop dead a fifty nine from some smoking related illness, but if I do, whose to say how long I would have lived if I were not a smoker. Sixty, Seventy, Eighty?
I may have even taken a short cut one night in my twenties and been killed by a mugger. Because I didn’t have to detour to the newsagents for a packet of fags.
The tobacco control industry do not tell us what an early death actually is. We are not given an ideal age which we must all strive to live to if we don’t want to be a burden, we are just told that ‘early death’ costs non smokers over four billion quid.
To the tobacco control industry we are cash cows. We have a duty to live as long as possible and to keep producing. Once our production stops we become a cost to society.
We are not cash cows. We have no duty to live to an old age. We are human beings. When we die it has an affect on the people we have touched in our lives. That’s the only cost.
The economy does not notice.