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To encourage the estimated 36.5 million tobacco users in the U.S. to kick the dangerous habit, the personal finance website WalletHub calculated the potential monetary losses — including the lifetime and annual costs of a cigarette pack per day, health care expenditures, income losses and other costs — brought on by smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke. The news for South Carolina smokers is not good.

The financial cost of smoking in South Carolina (1=lowest, 25=average):

• Out-of-pocket cost per smoker – $92,517 (Rank: 6th)

• Financial-opportunity cost per smoker – $777,180 (6th)

• Health care cost per smoker – $129,717 (8th)

• Income loss per smoker – $191,344 (9th)

• Other costs per smoker – $11,891 (29th)

• Total cost over lifetime per smoker -- $1,202,648

• Total cost per year per smoker -- $23,581

If the cost is not enough to make people kick the habit, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control wants to help.

The S.C. Tobacco Quitline -- 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) -- is a source of help no matter what stage of the quit process a person is in. It features free one-on-one telephone coaching, web-based and text message support, assistance in developing personalized quit plans, and free nicotine-replacement therapy such as patches, gum and lozenges to eligible callers.

Unfortunately, DHEC cannot even suggest that there is another therapy for replacing the nicotine from cigarettes -- and at the same time avoiding the chemicals in smoke and the spread of second-hand smoke.

Electronic cigarettes stand as another way to help the more than three-quarter million South Carolina cigarette smokers give up tobacco. But the U.S. government and anti-smoking organizations are at war with e-cigs.

The American Cancer Society and its many allies continue to focus on preventing people from starting the use of tobacco and getting those who do use tobacco in any form to cease. While the strategy should not be compromised, the ACS and others are being forced by changing technology to decide where they stand on tobacco alternatives.

Automatic rejection is shortsighted when it comes to products that stand to help a lot more people join the ranks of those quitting the use of tobacco, particularly when looking at a 2017 report that concludes the United States is failing to meet its goals.

Action on Smoking and Health bills itself as America’s oldest anti-tobacco organization. Founded in 1967, it is dedicated to a world with zero tobacco deaths. Its report is titled, “Tobacco in America: Leaving the Vulnerable Behind.”

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While national smoking prevalence has been driven down over the past two decades, the most vulnerable Americans bear a disproportionate share of the costs of tobacco, ASH states. Partly as a result, the United States ranks 43rd in the world in life expectancy, despite spending more than any other country per capita on health.

Lindsey Stroud, government relations coordinator at The Heartland Institute, notes that not only is the Food and Drug Administration battling e-cigarettes, county health departments around the country are joining in the battle to “demonize devices that can help improve public health.”

Stroud points out that research increasingly indicates e-cigarettes and vaping devices are far less harmful than traditional tobacco cigarettes. In 2015, Public Health England found e-cigarettes to be 95 percent safer than cigarettes. The Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians urges that it is in the “interest of public health” to promote the usage of electronic cigarettes as alternatives to smoking.

“It is of the utmost importance e-cigarettes be treated differently than traditional tobacco products,” Stroud said. Though they mimic the sensations of cigarettes, e-cigarettes are tobacco-harm-reduction tools that have proven to be successful in aiding millions of people in their quest to quit smoking.

A study by the Reason Foundation found between 6.1 million and 9.2 million people in the European Union have quit tobacco cigarettes through the use of electronic cigarettes.

In measuring the U.S. commitment to ending tobacco use, the campaign in this country against e-cigarettes cannot be ignored as factor in not meeting goals.

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The WalletHub study on smoking costs can be found at https://wallethub.com/edu/the-financial-cost-of-smoking-by-state/9520/

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