Smoking cigarettes produces three different kinds of expenses. One cost is to equality in the use of health care services. A second, more obvious cost is to the individual smoker who gets sick, cannot breathe, and dies prematurely. (Also, their clothes smell!) A third and the largest cost of smoking is to our nation as a whole.
In the modern world, a country’s single most important economic resource is its workforce. Two billion people give China a huge economic engine. The main reason why the USA has its technologic edge is the innovative capabilities of its people. If you view a country like a business, the workers are its prime competitive advantage. If they smoke cigarettes, this competitive advantage becomes”non-sustainable.”
Any good farmer knows that healthy animals produce more than sick ones. The CEO of Cisco knows that sick – much less dead from emphysema – engineers do not produce at all. Whatever weakens your workforce reduces your productivity and competitiveness. Therefore, every nation has a strong, longterm financial incentive to keep its workforce healthy. Discouraging smoking is a sound economic policy for any wise government.
The U.S. government is actively trying to promote healthy workers by banning smoking in all public places. Yet at the same time, we continue to subsidize tobacco farmers. Isn’t that like handing out cigarettes and then offering reduced rates for treating lung cancer?
Discouraging smoking can help preserve our nation’s sustainable competitive advantage.
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