One Cigarette vs. 11 Minutes of Life

So, if smoking a cigarette knocks 11 minutes off of your life, you would think that would capture people’s attention.  Or would you?  Given the framework of hyperbolic discounting, what is the value we put on that 11 minutes of life.  If I’m young, I see that as a very distant value with a lot of things that could happen between now and then.  The “benefit” of smoking the one cigarette is very real and immediate.  (I’ve never been a smoker, but I assume there is an enjoyment.)

It’s not very different from eating.  The extra spoonful of sugar in my coffee can (over the course of a year) add a pound and over the course of a decade add 10 pounds…BUT can I really make that tradeoff.

This is one of the fundamental challenges in healthcare especially for asymptomatic diseases where there aren’t regularly experienced symptoms – e.g., high cholesterol.

One Response to “One Cigarette vs. 11 Minutes of Life”

  1. Well written George – A poignant trade-off worth pondering. Here are some multilingual, 3-D animations related to this dichotomy:

    Lung Cancer

    Smoking Cessation

    How Lungs Function

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