This month has seen the publication of an interesting ‘cohort study’ about the economics of smoking.
But first a little about cohort studies:
A cohort study means researchers can use big sample sizes, in this case 1976 smoking men from the ages of 54-60yrs, and then study them for a really long time – 27 years in this instance.
Using cohort research methodology the researchers can demonstrate the sequence between exposure and outcome that often takes a while to show, and what these folk wanted to study was the net economic effect of smoking on society.
(‘Net’ means the amount of money left in the pot once all the expenses and overheads have been paid.)
The disadvantages of using a cohort study are down to the time needed – like the 27 years, and the losses that can be incurred when following up subjects. In this study death would have been a major loss, as many men would be in their 80’s and 90’s at the end of the study. But then this is exactly what the researchers wanted to see, as they wanted to know – is it ultimately more expensive to have people smoke or not?
They looked at the income, tobacco taxes, pensions and medical care costs of these men during that time. They applied some maths and statistics and came out with the following results.
It costs about £1000 more per year in health costs for a smoker, but as they die younger, it’s actually works out about £3000 cheaper per life than for a non smoker.
Smokers missed out on pension payments – as they died 7.3 years sooner in pensionable years – saving the state or the pension company well over £100’000 per individual.
Smokers contribute well over £100’000 more to the public finances through tax than non smokers, BUT – and this is where they turn it on its head- and please note I have only seen the abstract of this research so cannot show or explain the maths used – but when they placed a monetary value onto the life of a smoker of about £18’000 per year – the fact that the smoker dies early, means that overall, the public purse misses out £57’000 per smoking individual.