Many people are aware, or starting to become more aware, of the critical health effects of tobacco use. Less known, however, is the enormous financial burden of tobacco use that citizens — including non-smokers — face.
Each year, Pennsylvania residents spend a total of $6.38 billion on health care costs directly caused by smoking, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. This is not surprising due to the fact that the rate of smoking in Pennsylvania is higher than the national average. However, the monetary costs of smoking extend far beyond smokers themselves. The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids reports that Pennsylvania residents’ yearly state and federal tax burden specifically from smoking-caused government expenditures is $1,026 per household. Additionally, the smoking-caused productivity losses in this state add up to a loss of $5.73 billion each year.
These glaring numbers show that the economic costs of tobacco use significantly impact everyone, especially business owners, which suffer most from the productivity losses of their employees. But the blame should not be focused on current smokers; the fault lies with the state policies that propagate the smoking epidemic.
Each year 5,100 kids under the age of 18 become daily smokers in Pennsylvania, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. This number continues to rise, and along with it, so does the fatality rate and the financial cost for citizens. Tobacco 21 is a nationwide movement to increase the legal purchasing age of tobacco from 18 to 21. If this legislation passes in Pennsylvania, there will be fewer smokers in the future, and medical costs, tax burdens and productivity losses will decrease.
One of the myths about Tobacco 21 is that it will negatively affect tobacco retailers, but this is not true. Statistics show that those under the age of 21 account for roughly 2 percent of tobacco sales, according to a 2014 study published in the American Journal of Public Health. Tobacco 21 laws still maintain almost all current sales, but will protect the youth and reduce the number of future smokers.
In addition to the financial reasons why business owners should support Tobacco 21 legislation, companies also have a moral responsibility to consider the youth in this country and this state. Preventing future deaths and lessening the economic burdens of citizens at the same time is in the best interests of business owners, young people and all other Pennsylvania residents.
Hallie Hoffman is a freshman majoring in media/communication and philosophy at Muhlenberg College. She is from Belle Mead, New Jersey.