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Health Care Key Findings – July/August 2011

Medical and Productivity Losses Related to Smoking
Medical Tourism
Americans Would Choose Wealth Over Youth, Beauty

Medical and Productivity Losses Related to Smoking

The combined cost of medical spending and productivity losses caused by smoking in the U.S. is about $193 billion a year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tobacco use is responsible for 20% of U.S. deaths. Employers find that a smoker is 18% more expensive than a nonsmoker.

Because of these costs, many companies use incentives or insurance surcharges to encourage desired employee behavior. Companies such a Macy’s PepsiCo and Gannett make employee smokers pay hundreds of dollars in additional insurance each year. Others, such as Union Pacific and Scotts Miracle-Gro refuse to hire smokers.

The smoking rate is four times higher among teens not headed for college than for teens pursuing higher education. In 2009, almost 30% of adults with at most a high school education were current smokers compared with 22% of those with some college and just 9% of those with at least a bachelors’ degree.

Most state governments have an excise tax on cigarette sales to help discourage smoking and to raise revenue to pay for smoking-related health problems. These cigarette excise taxes range from around $0.17 per pack in Missouri to $4.25 in New York, with a state average tax of $1.45 per pack. A pack of cigarettes costs about $11 in New York, compared with a national average of $4.80.

Medical Tourism

According to Ypartnership, one-half of Americans are familiar with the term “medical tourism” (travel to other countries to undergo medical treatment). Of the 17% who say they would consider visiting another country for medical care, their reasons include:

  • Lower cost of care in other countries (84%)
  • Comparable or better quality treatment or care (66%)
  • The procedure they seek is not covered by insurance (43%)
  • Shorter wait time to receive treatment (41%)
  • Access to non-FDA approved treatment (22%)

Americans Would Choose Wealth Over Youth, Beauty

When given the choice, Americans say they would rather be richer (43%) than thinner (21%), smarter (14%), or younger (12%). About one in 10 (9%) say they would not choose any of these options.

Women (29%) are more than twice as likely as men (14%) to choose to be thinner, whereas men are more likely than women to choose to be richer (46% vs. 41%) and younger (16% vs. 8%). The following chart shows preferences by age.

Would Americans Rather be Richer, Thinner, Smarter, or Younger? By Age, 2010



  • Most Americans aged 70 and older (78%) retained their driver licenses in 2008, up from 73% in 1997. During that period, fatal crashes involving drivers aged 70 and older declined by 37%.
  • Seven in 10 Americans (70%) look to the Internet when they have a question about sex. Other sources include books (23%), men’s magazines (20%), asking friends (18%), and women’s magazines (17%).
  • Some 28% of Americans say that individuals are responsible for obesity and 20% blame the fast food industry. This reflects a significant shift from 2009 when 26% blamed the fast food industry and 24% blamed individuals.

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