Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

Get me some trans-fat and nicotine, stat!

Posted by Daniel Hall on February 5, 2008

Turns out those 300-pound smokers aren’t the menace to public coffers that you might have feared:

Preventing obesity and smoking can save lives, but it doesn’t save money, researchers reported Monday. It costs more to care for healthy people who live years longer, according to a Dutch study that counters the common perception that preventing obesity would save governments millions of dollars.

“It was a small surprise,” said Pieter van Baal, an economist at the Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, who led the study. “But it also makes sense. If you live longer, then you cost the health system more.”

In a paper published online Monday in the Public Library of Science Medicine journal, Dutch researchers found that the health costs of thin and healthy people in adulthood are more expensive than those of either fat people or smokers. …

The researchers found that from age 20 to 56, obese people racked up the most expensive health costs. But because both the smokers and the obese people died sooner than the healthy group, it cost less to treat them in the long run. …

Ultimately, the thin and healthy group cost the most, about $417,000, from age 20 on. The cost of care for obese people was $371,000, and for smokers, about $326,000.

With some economists worried about the impact rising entitlement spending will have on the next generation, sounds like it’s time to follow Tim Harford’s advice and take up smoking. Do it for the kids!

H/T: Kids Prefer Cheese, who notes: “I swear this is not from the Onion.”

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