Death Saves You Money

Mel Evans/AP

A decade ago, Philip Morris commissioned a study that found smokers in the Czech Republic were actually saving society money.

A big part of the savings: Smoking tends to kill people while they're still young, saving society the long-term costs of caring for them as they get older.

Perhaps not surprisingly, this finding blew up in the company's face.

Newspapers around the world picked up the story: "Smoking Cuts Elderly Costs, and Elderly"

The company furiously backtracked: "We understand the outrage that has been expressed and we sincerely regret this extraordinarily unfortunate incident."

Activists used the study's findings against the industry — and, paradoxically, sought to undermine the study's conclusions.

On today's Planet Money, we tell the story of the study. And we look more broadly at the economics of this stuff.

For more on the story of the Czech smoking study, listen to our piece on this weekend's This American Life. (Find out when the show airs on your local station.)

For further reading: Here's the study Philip Morris commissioned. Here's a frequently cited study from the mid-'90s comparing cigarette taxes to the costs smoking imposes on society. Here's another study on the subject from the Congressional Research Service.

Download the podcast, or Subscribe. Music: Rufus Wainwright: "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk." Find us: Twitter/ Facebook/ Flickr.



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