Nanny state or caring society?

Dear Dr. Copitch,

I read your article called "New images on cigarette packs" and found myself getting angry. Why do people think that they can tell me what to do? I like smoking, and I am aware that it may be harmful to me. But it is my life and I still choose to smoke. I should be able to "opt out" of the nanny state and be allowed to live my life my way.

Grumpy in Oxnard

Hi Grumpy in Oxnard,

I think I understand your desire to be left alone to smoke to your heart's content, but you live in a caring society. If I happen to be walking down the street and see you keeled over and wheezing, maybe having a heart attack or suffering from lung cancer, I'm going to call 911 and get you some help.

This help comes with a big price tag and all of us pay this price tag. You can't "opt out" of our society easily. I like the concept of free will, but the reality of your free will can be very expensive for us as a whole.

According to the CDC:

  • During 2000–2004, cigarette smoking was estimated to be responsible for $193 billion in annual health-related economic losses in the United States ($96 billion in direct medical costs and approximately $97 billion in lost productivity).
  • The total economic costs (direct medical costs and lost productivity) associated with cigarette smoking are estimated at $10.47 per pack of cigarettes sold in the United States.
  • Cigarette smoking results in 5.1 million years of potential life lost in the United States annually.