Nonsmokers Benefit from Smokers

Published January 1, 2007

Some economists note that any health care cost imposed on society by smokeless tobacco or any other product is technically a transfer that has been created by government through a quasi-socialized health care system.

In addition, they note, while it is commonly assumed that individuals’ unhealthful habits must necessarily impose health care costs on society, this is not at all the case. A field of economics known as social cost accounting attempts to discern the aggregate fiscal effects of different types of behavior, and its findings are often counterintuitive.

Smoking, for example, has been found not to impose health care costs on nonsmokers. To the contrary, current federal, state, and local fiscal regimes have been found to transfer tens of billions of dollars from smokers to nonsmokers.

Gerald Prante

For more information

See, for example, Patrick Fleenor, “Who Bears the Ancillary Cost of Tobacco Use?” Tax Foundation Background Paper, No. 36 (January 2001), available online at

PolicyBot™, The Heartland Institute’s free online research database, offers more than a dozen articles on the cost to society imposed by tobacco products. Point your Web browser to and select the topic/subtopic combination Smoking/Cost to Society.