Vice Squad
Monday, April 19, 2004
Relatively Neglected Costs of Smoking

The health risks of smoking have received a good deal of attention for some time now. Oddly, one of the major sources of smoking "externalities" (the health costs are primarily "internal") receives surprisingly little attention: fire. "According to the National Fire Protection Association, smoking is the number one cause of fire-related death and fires started by smoking kill nearly 1,000 civilians each year and cost victims close to $560 million in damages. On June 28, 2004, New York will be the first state to adopt fire safety standards that will require all cigarettes sold in New York State to be low ignition strength, making them less likely to cause fires if left unattended." This quote is drawn from this article, which concerns new anti-smoking ads that will focus on fire.

Another external cost that is connected with smoking that often goes unremarked upon is cigarette butt litter. (OK, this isn't at the same level of seriousness as fire.) Recently two Vice Squad members walked two blocks in Chicago, counting the visible cigarette butts on the ground, but without taking extraordinary efforts in detection. More than 100 cigarette remains were identified.

See how Vice Squad members entertain themselves?

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