Smokers cost Austrian economy 511 million euros per year

April 13th, 2008 - 10:19 am ICT by admin  

By Ivonne Marschall
Vienna, April 13 (DPA) Austria’s economy is burdened by additional costs of 511 million euros (about $808 million), or 0.23 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product, per year due to smoking, according to a study just released. If losses in productivity arising from smoking - including health care costs, or early retirement or death because of smoking-related illnesses - were deducted from the income generated by tobacco taxes, the negative economic effects were obvious, the Institute for Higher Studies said.

They compared the real costs and benefits with costs occurring in a hypothetical non-smoking society.

About one quarter of the additional costs were passive-smoking related, the institute said, calling on Austria, which is lagging behind other European Union (EU) members in anti-smoking legislation, to step up protection for non-smokers.

“We also included 81 million euros hypothetical compensation payments for passive smokers, whose life-expectancy is lowered by nine months,” study author Markus Pock said.

“I think this aspect must be mentioned,” he said.

Pock added that his team also included the often mentioned, but “ethically very questionable” theory that the country’s pension system would benefit from many smokers’ early demise.

“The effects are negligible. In Austria’s system, widows are entitled to up to 60 per cent of their late husband’s pensions, who are statistically more likely to smoke,” Pock said.

“Wives tend to be younger and women have a longer life-expectancy, so there would be no economic benefit when their smoking husbands die early,” he said.

“I know the concept is awful, but this argument keeps coming up and we were able to disprove it.”

The study did not include losses from accidents caused by smoking, loss of productivity from tobacco breaks, and costs occurring to the economy when people are removed from the work process because they have to take care of smoking relatives fallen ill.

“We did not have enough data, but according to rough estimates the costs are substantial,” Pock said.

Tobacco-friendly Austria ranks lowest in an EU-wide comparison of measures taken to protect non-smokers. Existing legislation banning smoking in public places was toothless, experts said.

Laws regarding smoking ban in bars and restaurants were mothballed owing to massive resistance on part of tobacco and restaurant lobbies.

Introducing a smoking ban could lead to some short-term losses, Pock said, but expected in the long run consumption to pick up to pre-ban levels, as disgruntled non-smokers would return to Austria’s bars.

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