Tuesday, June 23, 2009

38 Cents per Cancer Stick

When I was growing up, cigarettes were something people bought from vending machines. I've never been a smoker, but I want to say they cost about a dollar? I'm not so sure, and it's not something I pay much attention to. Today, I learned that a carton of cigarettes cost $75! $7.50 a pack, or 38 cents a cigarette. So someone who smokes 2 packs/day, pays about $450 a month.

The funny thing is, I didn't know this because people never complain to me about the cost of cigarettes. They complain about the cost of medicines (this sometimes includes patients with medicaid who have a $1 co-pay for their meds), the cost of health insurance, and the cost of medical treatment. At times, I've suggested that patients with heavy habits cut down by one pack a month (so less than a cigarette a day) to be able to afford their medicines and I've been met with groans.

Do I think cigarettes should cost this much? Yes. The health problems they cause and the cost they inflict on society is so huge, that I believe they should be heavily taxed-- and the monies should go to medical expenses incurred by smokers and research on how to better prevent addictions (my personal rant, added at no additional cost). But I think it speaks to power of their addiction that people are willing to put out this huge sum of money on cigarettes-- people who don't have it, people who really can't afford it, people who would go without necessary medical insurance or medical care, meals at nice restaurants, vacations, and many other things that $5,000 a year would buy.

So why is this a Shrink Rap post? Patients with severe and persistent mental illnesses have higher rates of smoking than the population as a whole, and they also die a lot younger, often from cardiovascular disease. Check out this post on Psych Central.