50 Years After Smoking Warning – Where are We?

by Jayne D. Frank

50 Years after the Surgeon General’s report on the adverse effects of smoking we hear reports of how that report saved 8 million people from premature deaths who since have quit. These reports obscure and ignore the real facts and problems with smoking in 2014:

1) Because of population increase in the U.S., smokers have actually increased and the number of young people smoking has not decreased.

2) Only a handful of states actually have any “meaningful” laws protecting non-smokers from second-hand smoke in public places (workplace, restaurants, bars, etc.);

3) The propaganda on E-cigarettes is misleading inasmuch as they contain carcinogens which can lead to cancer, hardly an improvement over regular cigarettes;

4) Insurance companies do NOTHING to penalize smokers by way of higher premiums. Health care costs in this Country have spiraled out of control and one of the most prominent reasons is the cost of care for chronically ill people with sicknesses directly attributable to smoking has increased dramatically. You will hear arguments from smokers that the cost of treatment for non-smokers exceeds that of smokers, and the argument cannot be made truthfully. NON-SMOKERS JUST LIVE LONGER so they could require longer medical care! This smokescreen is most apparent when you look at what Obamacare does and doesn’t do with potential enrollees. The enrollment form asks you “whether” you smoke, but does nothing to increase smoker’s premiums, and in fact, many if not most smokers will be off the hook for paying anything and will be thrown in Medicaid or subsidized, both on the backs of others.

5) Entitlements in this country have soared over the last 50 years and especially during the Obama Administration and we taxpayers continue to “give” welfare checks and unemployment checks to smokers who run out and pay hundreds of dollars a month for cigarettes.

6) The cost of treating asthma in this Country is dramatically increasing every year, and how many of these asthma cases came about by children having to be around and live with people who smoked every day?

The rhetoric is all well and good about possibly saving 8 million people from premature deaths by having them quit, but nothing substantial has happened in this war on smoking over the past several years. Smokers have rights, but they have NO right to take taxpayer money for their habit, they have NO right to drain the healthcare system in this country, they have NO right to cause everyone’s insurance costs to go up because of them, and they still have NO right to interfere with my rights not to breathe this stuff.

This is not just an opinionated blog without any basis or knowledge. I personally went through years and years taking care of 2 parents whose diseases from smoking literally took their life’s breath away and deteriorated every organ in their body. Their quality of life during the last ten years was deplorable and the way their bodies were ravaged was ugly. I got really disgusted at having to endure the countless doctors showing me photos of my dad’s lung cancer as it progressed and x-rays of lungs that had no air sacs left to breathe. They were both on expensive continuous oxygen and couldn’t get around at the end without wheelchairs. My sister who was in the prime of her life but acquired the life-long habit of smoking 3 packs a day from my parents, died of an aneurysm and strokes, but only 5 years after being completely paralyzed from those events. I am deeply disappointed in the recent court decision that did not mandate that these graphic pictures be shown on cigarette packages. I guess “reality shows” are just relegated to the television now.

More importantly I saw the bills that came in from Medicare and my sister’s insurance companies for her long-term care. A typical 3-day hospital visit for one of my parents in 1997 ran over $80,000. Who paid for that? We all did.

The personal side of this for me is that I was subjected to second-hand smoke my entire life as a child and because both my son and I took care of my parents, we were subjected even further to the effects of being around my parents, and guess what? They continued to smoke up until their death because they said “we have rights.”

Smokers Once Again on the Backs of Taxpayers!

by Jayne D. Frank

One of the myriad of devastating financial impacts to taxpayers of Obamacare has just recently been announced. Some states who have agreed to be in the Government healthcare exchanges have agreed to a provision to put smokers in what I call another “victim’s group” and allow them special status to be considered as having preexisting conditions under the exchanges.  What this will mean is that smokers who “choose” to continue smoking and drain the American healthcare system will not see their insurance policies rise with a surcharge imposed for their unhealthy habit.  Bad decision.  It is up to all taxpayers, who are already seeing massive increased costs as a direct result of Obamacare (increases in premiums, shorter work hours, additional taxes), to write and call their Governors and legislators to urge them not to follow suit with the more liberal states that have already voted to designate smokers as having a preexisting condition.

I have always been in favor or increased insurance costs for people who choose bad lifestyles?  Why?  Not only have I seen cigarette smoking ravage the health of my own family, but I truly believe in personal responsibility.  Millions of Americans have made the decision to quit cold turkey, reduce the fat and bad carbs in their diets and try to exercise or at least stay active.  These people should be applauded and given the best possible insurance rates, just as you are given the best insurance rates for not having had an accident in your car.

More than half of all smokers die from smoking-related diseases and die an average of 10 years before a non-smoker; half of all long-term smokers make it past the age of 70.  Smoking-related deaths are not quick deaths either.  Smokers can expect several years of expensive health care, illness and distressing systems before they die.

Smokers are far more prone to develop lung cancer, COPD, heart disease and cancers of the mouth, nose, throat, larynx, pancreas, and blood are all more common in smokers.  Chemicals in smoking can damage the lining of your blood vessels and circulation and can also lead to stroke and aneurysms.  Smoking also contributes to macular degeneration, osteoporosis and dementia, and on and on.  Children, co-workers and friends who are constantly around smokers run the high risk of developing asthma or similar illnesses from second-hand smoke.

The latest push by our Government to make sure smokers are included as a preexisting condition (thereby insuring that they can always be covered and not have to pay a higher rate due to their “high risk lifestyle”) is being touted as once again levelling the playing field.  They will say that long-term smokers in general are in economically poorer areas because those people cannot afford to get the kind of treatment that rich people can get, and that is not “fair.”  Hogwash.  As I stated before, statistics confirm that most people have quit cold turkey, and each person in this country was born and given free will by our Creator.  The will to be healthy or not is given to everyone and taxpayers should not be shouldering the burden in this country for anyone who chooses an unhealthy lifestyle.  Personal responsibility MUST take over for what is becoming the nanny state in America. This is tantamount to saying that bunions, arthritis, fear of heights, or social awkwardness are all preexisting conditions.  What will be next?

Another argument from Government down the line is going to be that if you average the cost of health care for a non-smoker or smoker during their entire lives, you actually get a lower amount spent on smokers.  That’s because smokers die on average 10 years sooner than their non-smoking counterparts!  It is actually a substantially higher heathcare cost for smokers.

With a father, mother and sister who lived for years in sickness, and with numerous short hospital stays averaging over $80,000 each, I have a very clear picture of the decades-long financial drain their lifestyles had on taxpayers.  They also died what I consider horrible deaths because of smoking, with my sister becoming a paraplegic because a smoking-related aneurysm cut her life short in her 60s.

Taxpayers who are doing everything right, by their own choosing, should not be burdened with the excessive cost of not putting smokers in a high risk category.  This has nothing to do with emotions, with compassion or with your love of your fellow man.  It has to do with personal responsibility of each human being.  Don’t be fooled by the Government’s tactics of making you feel they are compassionate.  Obamacare still has “death panel” provisions in it, and it is Government’s intention to eventually tell everyone when and where they may receive health care.  Once in the exchanges, everyone’s life will be cut short should the Government deem it too expensive to treat you – young or old, smoker or non-smoker.

If Smoking is a Personal Freedom the Smoker Must bear the Responsibility for Consequences.

By: Jayne D. Frank

Before each of you that smokes closes this blog in disgust, please take a minute to hear why I believe smoking, although  a personal choice, must also be accompanied by personal responsibility for the inevitable consequences resulting from the habit. Our economy is a mess, our health care system costs are out of control, and over the past year, I have heard little about one of the chief contributors to increased costs,  that of smoking related health problems. It has been documented medically that smoking causes constricted blood vessels, deteriorated air sacs of the lung, porous bones,  a propensity for stroke, and various cancers, especially lung cancer.  As a result, if you smoke, from age 40 and beyond you may start to burden the health care system because of your life style choice to smoke.   Smoking results in the bulk of our hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices being crammed with people with heart attacks, strokes, breathing problems, pneumonia, bronchitis, falls and other ailments which are the direct result of smoking. Costs associated with treatment of these conditions are in large part being absorbed by the majority of taxpaying Americans that choose to pursue a healthy life style and take personal responsibility for their health.

I took care of parents who smoked for 70 years and was personally involved with their many years of treatments for COPD, pneumonia and cancer, and I personally saw the bills for their later care which were submitted to Medicare and Blue Cross.  They ranged anywhere from $40,000 to $80,000 per hospital stay of which there were many. Granted, much of this cost might be viewed as  fraud and abuse, which I reported, such as charging several hundred dollars for a breathing treatment apparatus that costs $.40 to manufacture, but the focus of this particular article is how this one life style choice will continue to devastate our health care system.   The majority of ailments for smokers can be substantially reduced if not totally prevented by stopping.

I wintered in FL this year and see every day people going into the convenience stores to purchase a couple of $7 packs of cigarettes. Many appear to look unhealthy, many are young but appear prematurely aged because of their habit, and they get into old cars that have pieces falling off and obviously live near or under the poverty level. The majority of these people are either low-income or welfare recipients and the people most likely to flood the emergency rooms since they have  no insurance.  I simply say that if they can afford to buy $14 worth of cigarettes a day, they can buy insurance, but have chosen not to do so.

The current health care plan in Congress will subsidize these people and will tax others even further  to pay for their care.  This is wrong! Person liberty is very important to this writer, but smoking  cannot be considered a personal liberty because of its disasterous effects on the rest of us.  I currently purchase group insurance for $260.00 a month which equates to a little more than the cost of one pack of cigarettes per day. My premiums have increased about 20% each year primarily because of having to pay for those sicker than me; can I not assume that many of those just refuse to quit smoking?

Big Government intrusion into our lifestyle choices is not the answer and as a Conservative, I don’t want government in my life, but punishment and reward seem to be only things that many people understand.   Today state and federal governments combined receive about 85% of the cost of every package of cigarettes purchased in the form of taxes. Why are these taxes not being used to fund the costs for care of uninsured smokers? Hospitals and insurance companies should not have to bear these costs in the form of premium increases paid for by those  responsible enough to purchase coverage but who should have these costs funded by the taxes on smokers.   The cost to a smoker that consumes two packs per day has them spending $420.00 each month, money that could buy a very adequate health care policy should they choose to buy one. But in lieu of continuing to treat people  who flood  clinics and emergency rooms with smoking related problems, should we not be spending that money giving smokers the tools and medication they need to discourage and stop this deadly practice?

Smoking is an addiction and like breaking a drug habit it is extremely difficult. Smokers overwhelmingly oppose increased taxes on tobacco, however; due to the consequences that are inevitable from their habit, they must bear the responsibility in the form of high taxes should they continue to smoke. The choice is theirs;  pay for your unhealthy habit in taxes or use the money to buy health insurance. You still have the right to choose to smoke and the rest of us have the right not to pay for your choice.