That number's also made it into a DomPost editorial, as pointed out by Matthew in comments here:
The Health Ministry estimates the health-related costs at $1.9 billion – much more than the $1.3b that will be raised once the new tax rates are fully in force.And, I've seen more than a few folks on "ask the public" tv news interviews complaining about how smokers aren't paying their way and ought to be more heavily taxed.
What's the provenance of the $1.9 billion number? MacDoctor suspects they're using a "social costs" figure. Paul Walker emails me the following:
From "Cancer Society POSITION STATEMENT: TOBACCO"I was guessing the $1.9 billion was an inflation adjustment of the 2005 figure of $1.7 billion; Paul thinks it comes from this prior figure. Either way, it's a measure of "social cost" rather than costs to the health care system or to the government more generally.
"The cost of smoking in New Zealand is substantial. The cost from tobacco use to New Zealand’s publicly funded personal health care services in 1987 was estimated at $202 million in 1992 dollars. Not counted are the costs of exposure to second-hand smoke, or the costs of cigar and pipe smoking. The wider estimated costs to society far exceed the direct health care costs to Government and has been estimated at $1.9 billion in 1992 dollars^9"
9. Public Health Commission. Tobacco Products: The Public Health Commission’s Advice to the Minister of Health 1993-1994. Wellington 1994.
I really hate these "social cost" estimates. Motivated folks can always present them as being actual costs to the government, and that affects public opinion about the appropriate level of taxation.
Update: The $1.9 billion figure is on the Ministry of Health website; my apologies to the Dom Post for thinking they'd been the source of confusion. It will be interesting to see the Ministry's supporting documentation.