New Zealand's anti-tobacco zealots at MoH seem pretty determined to use whatever dodgy method will get them the contrary result: counting all the excess costs imposed by smokers against a counterfactual that smokers would never otherwise have had any end-of-life costs. The response I've gotten from MoH boffins is that MoH doesn't keep stats on what dead people would otherwise have cost the system. Seriously. Never mind that anti-tobacco folks seem more than happy to produce estimates of what dead people would earned so that their lost tax revenues can be counted as a cost of smoking. Rest assured that I'll be pursuing alternative channels on this one. I view MoH's continued use of the $1.9 billion cost figure as tantamount to fraud; they, of course, disagree.
But who does get the sign right on the fiscal externality? Russia. Here's the Russian finance minister:
Speaking as the Russian government announces plan to raise duty on alcohol and cigarettes, Alexei Kudrin said that by smoking a pack, “you are giving more to help solve social problems such as boosting demographics, developing other social services and upholding birth rates”.Boosting demographics means "dying earlier so there are fewer pensioners relative to young people"; developing other social services means "you're paying way more in tax than you're costing us, so we can use the difference to fund other things"; "upholding birth rates" presumably means that smoking and drinking are complements to procreational activities.
“People should understand: Those who drink, those who smoke are doing more to help the state,” he told the Interfax news agency.
I love Russian candor.