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Smoking pleasure?

Posted: August 7, 2014 10:47 a.m.
Updated: August 8, 2014 5:00 a.m.

If you don’t believe that studies can show virtually any result, you need look no further than a new segment in the federal government’s hefty new tobacco regulations showing that the health benefits of quitting smoking have to be largely discounted because of the loss of pleasure that smokers suffer when they kick the habit. Huh?

Writing for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), economists said economic benefits to quitting -- fewer early deaths, smaller bills for health care associated with the consequences of smoking -- have to be discounted by 70 percent because of the loss of pleasure. This idea of lost happiness is new to the health regulation field but it goes back a long time, to the administration of President Bill Clinton, when Uncle Sam decreed that every set of federal regulations with more than a $100 million effect on the economy must have an analysis to prevent the adoption of government rules that might have high costs and low benefits.

The study was done as part of an effort by the FDA to extend control of smoking to electronic cigarettes and forms of tobacco other than cigarettes. And the paper has plenty of critics, including noted economists. The FDA has yet to explain the methodology used in the study, but observers note it could have an effect on future efforts to regulate the food and beverage industry. Such further oversight, of course, would please many Americans and dismay many others.

Trying to determine the cost of “lost pleasure” seems a difficult task at best. Bureaucrats, of course, can come up with all sorts of ideas for studies and philosophies. This one, in particular, seems strange to us.


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