U.S. - spending $170.3 billion more a year on tobacco damage than we're collecting in tobacco taxes..

January 3, 2010 - For the first time since 1960, smoking rates are increasing. Why?
--Legislators are taking money away from stop-smoking programs.

--85 percent of health insurance policies do not cover tobacco-cessation treatment.

--Big Tobacco is still plenty rich: It spends $25 million a day on marketing to hook new smokers. And it's still influencing politicians everywhere.

The result? Sicker people and a sicker economy. Fewer jobs, lower productivity and a bigger budget deficit.

How could smoking increase unemployment or the national debt?
Two ways: First, smoking is a huge drain on worker productivity, thanks to all that sick time (not to mention cigarette breaks). Second, state and federal governments are spending billions of dollars to treat the serious illnesses caused by tobacco.

This year, most states will receive an average of $162 million from the settlement fund yet spend an average of $202 million on tobacco-related health costs for Medicaid patients alone. The cost? About $40 million per state, or $2 billion total.

--$22.5 billion: The total collected each year in cigarette taxes and settlement money.

--$96 billion: The annual price tag we all pay (in addition to seeing good people succumb to miserable deaths) in health costs related to cigarettes alone, not pipes, cigars or secondhand smoke.

--$96.8 billion: The annual productivity loss due to tobacco use.

The bottom line: We're spending $170.3 billion more a year on tobacco damage than we're collecting in tobacco taxes. And that contributes mightily to our budget deficit. Still, can we really afford quitting programs in a recession? We can't afford not to fund them! They save lives and dollars.

-When Massachusetts covered the full cost to Medicaid of stop-smoking programs, quit rates tripled and the number of smokers on Medicaid fell 26 percent. In just two years (2006 to 2008), emergency-room visits for asthma attacks fell 17 percent, and hospitalizations for heart attacks dropped 38 percent. (Massachusetts - if states cover tobacco cessation treatment cost will smokers quit??)

--When companies help employees quit, they save at least $542 per ex-smoker per year on health insurance premiums.

--When smoking was banned in workplaces and public buildings in Pueblo, Colo., hospitalizations for heart attacks dropped 27 percent. (Smoking bans lower heart attacks..)

By the way, if you're in Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon or Pennsylvania, do a happy dance. These six states fully fund Medicaid quit-smoking programs, and the payoffs are huge.

Reference: Smoking big drain on U.S. Lawmakers cutting funds for cessation programs by MICHAEL ROIZEN, M.D., AND MEHMET OZ, M.D., PostandCourier.com, 12/28/2010.