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When a Pack of Cigarettes Costs $222

Kip Viscusi, who teaches economics and law at Vanderbilt Law School, has written widely and well on the risky choices that people make, especially smoking.

A new working paper, co-authored with Joni Hersch, attempts to put a price on each pack of cigarettes smoked:

This article estimates the mortality cost of smoking based on the first labor market estimates of the value of statistical life by smoking status. Using these values in conjunction with the increase in the mortality risk over the life cycle due to smoking, the value of statistical life by age and gender, and information on the number of packs smoked over the life cycle, produces an estimate of the private mortality cost of smoking of $222 per pack for men and $94 per pack for women in 2006 dollars, based on a 3 percent discount rate. At discount rates of 15 percent or more, the cost decreases to under $25 per pack.

By comparison, eating a cheeseburger is much, much cheaper.