A Double Whammy for Smokers: An ObamaCare Tax

The Affordable Care Act…allows health insurers to charge smokers buying individual policies up to 50 percent higher premiums starting next Jan. 1.

For a 55-year-old smoker, the penalty could reach nearly $4,250 a year. A 60-year-old could wind up paying nearly $5,100 on top of premiums…

Take a hypothetical 60-year-old smoker making $35,000 a year. Estimated premiums for coverage in the new private health insurance markets under Obama’s law would total $10,172. That person would be eligible for a tax credit that brings the cost down to $3,325.

But the smoking penalty could add $5,086 to the cost. And since federal tax credits can’t be used to offset the penalty, the smoker’s total cost for health insurance would be $8,411, or 24 percent of income. That’s considered unaffordable under the federal law. The numbers were estimated using the online Kaiser Health Reform Subsidy Calculator.

Ricardo Alonzo-Zaldivar (AP).

Comments (27)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Ken says:

    A travesty.

  2. Studebaker says:

    I don’t have anything against smokers. But if the actuarial tables suggest they cost more to insure, I’m fine with charging them more. I have the same views about obesity, age, heart disease, diabetes, gender, genetics, etc.

    God didn’t make us all the same; neither do we all share the same habits and lifestyles. Why do the purveyors of the PPACA think we should all pay the same premiums and have similar annual costs?

  3. Chaz says:

    How is that a tax?

  4. Evan Carr says:

    I have 0 sympathy for smokers. 40 years ago in the age for of the Marlboro man, maybe. Today, after modern science has revealed the dangers of smoking and after significant public health campaigns, I think people should pay extra for their lifestyle choice. Nicotine is a drug, one of the most addictive in the world, but people quit every day. Someone I met was a smoker for 8 years, a half-pack to a pack a day, and quit cold turkey. He told me, “I just want to live as long as possible.”
    There is less excuse for ignorance on health issues these days. That goes for obesity just as it does for smoking.

  5. The Native Indian says:

    I think smokers should have to be taxed, in part, they impose external costs on all of us through 2nd hand smoking. It is about time they be taxed.

  6. Neil Caffrey says:

    “For a 55-year-old smoker, the penalty could reach nearly $4,250 a year. A 60-year-old could wind up paying nearly $5,100 on top of premiums…”

    – I just cant get behind this. No doubt smoking increases public health costs, so does eating foods with high fat levels, ect. I’m not a smoker, but I think it’s unfair to pick out a singular sub-group of people and neglect others. This is another reason I do not like Obamacare.

  7. Sharon says:

    For the first time ever I can say this ACA may make some sense in some of its regulations after all. This is certainly one of them, and maybe the only one let’s be honest. It’s only fair for smokers to pay extra for their unhealthy habits, not only because they raise health care costs, but also because they harm the wellbeing of non-smokers around them and they are choosing to do so. This may even serve as an incentive for them to quit doing it, and everyone wins…except the government of course, since it won’t be able to charge these taxes anymore. Let’s pray this is the actual outcome.

  8. Joe Sheppard says:


    You make a very good point. Perhaps something good may come out of this.

  9. Andrew O says:

    Yeah, well, how exactly would they know a person is a smoker or not? Don’t they have to report it? They could simply lie, no? Or do their primary physicians have to send a report? Pardon my ignorance but I am not very familiar with this. I have no sympathy for smokers either, but I do think other unhealthy lifesytles would have to be somewhat targeted as well if smokers are to be harshly penalized for their irresponsible addiction. Processed and fatty foods can also be a highly addictive drug…so where do we draw the line? I don’t have answers, just questions…

  10. sb says:

    what about those with sexually promiscuous lifestyles? where does this nanny state stop?

  11. Angel says:

    I cannot say that I would oppose to this provision of the bill…and if prices ought to go up for other irresponsible behaviors in relation, then so be it. This could cause for prices to go down in the aggregate after all…

  12. Keith says:

    How can smokers cost more to insure if they don’t live as long as a non smoker?? You people are idiots! This is suppose to be a free country.. Obamacare is an infringment.. Obamacare is designed to create a single payer system.. welcome to communism!!

  13. Jardinero1 says:

    Next thing you know, they might allow the carriers to rate for pre-existing conditions since they won’t allow their exclusion

  14. Jardinero1 says:

    To all the self righteous prigs, there are many lifestyle factors which contribute to poor health as much as smoking. Little things like not getting enough sleep, sunbathing, eating too many empty carbs, exercising too much… beware!

  15. Chaz says:

    Welcome to communism?!? Isn’t letting insurers and health plans charge more for smokers permitting the free market to work?

  16. Gabriel Odom says:

    But forcing us all to purchase a good or service is a form of government control.

    Listen, I don’t smoke, but that doesn’t give me the right to preclude anyone else from doing it. The same goes for gay marriage, drinking alcohol, eating red meat, eating meat at all, drinking raw milk, listening to loud rock music, dancing, wearing skirts above the knee, or any of the millions of other things that people may think are “wrong”.

    “It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” – Thomas Jefferson

  17. Ronald R. Brett says:


  18. Henry GrosJean says:

    Andrew is correct, there are no provisions in the law yet on how to determine if someone smokes. So on January 1st 2014 we will miraculously become a nation of non-smokers as the only provision for cancellation is non-payment of premium! At least this is my understanding.

  19. Orion says:

    If you are sexually active, married or not, you are a tremendous risk as your husband or wife may well be sexually active – with someone else you know nothing about.
    If you drink alcohol and drive, you can kill far more people (and cost everyone far more) than a smoker can.
    If it’s ok to ask me if I smoke, then it’s ok to ask if you are having sex, with ANYone. It’s ok to ask if you drink and how much and how often and to charge accordingly. And on, and on…

  20. Orion says:


    And just WHO do you think will be paying those taxes when more people quit too – YOU,snide,unthinking non-smokers will be.

  21. Don Keybal says:

    Ok…let’s tax those evil smokers. But be aware that everyone has some “bad habits” and yours will be next. Do you like fatty foods…TAXED!!! Do you like drinking….TAXED!! Do you eat red meat….TAXED!!! Don’t you guys worry, next year we will all be totally screwed by obamacare. I don’t smoke, I’m 37 yrs old and Kaiser already informed me that my premium will go up next year due to obamacare.

  22. Bob Hertz says:

    I for one would like to know why a smoker costs 50% more to insure. Are there that many cases of lung cancer per thousand insureds under age 65? Maybe so, though I doubt it.

    My guess is that smoking is symptomatic of bad health in many other respects, like higher stress or bad diet or just poverty. You always see far more smokers at a low wage workplace than in a corporate office.

    The ACA relies on individual insurance companies to offer coverage, rather than have a public option or an expanded Medicare.

    But to bring in the insurers, the ACA has to allow \ some discretion in setting premiums, or else no insurers will participate.

    This may prove to be a structural tension that blows up the ACA.

    Bob Hertz, The Health Care Crusade

  23. Candy Hudson says:

    So, Is Obama going to quit smoking. Oh, that’s right..he’s not going to be under Obamass care.

  24. Bob M says:

    This is only the start. With gov’t controlling this, they will control any behavior deemed “unacceptable” by the leftists at HHS. Many things could potentially ‘raise health care costs’, in their opinion, and will be monitored and taxed in some way. Riding a motorcycle, hang gliding, racing of any kind, riding snowmobiles, promiscuous sex, eating fries, sweets, drinking soda, downhill skiing, running too much, not exercising enough, playing football, owning a firearm, etc… And forget about a heart transplant if you smoke. Don’t even think about a knee replacement if you are overweight. Forget about any treatment for anything if you are too old and it’s not ‘cost effective’. You Obama supporters have no idea what is coming with this. There is nothing good about a nanny state, and this Obama bunch can’t wait to take away your liberties. Good bye freedom.

  25. Bob Hertz says:

    Actually, some doctors will not do a knee replacement if the patient is signficantly overweight. Washington is not telling them to act this way.

    You are right about the threat to freedoms, but you are only half right. Medicare for the past 47 years has offered essentially complete freedom of choice to any senior. The problem is that if this continues, Medicare (and Medicaid) will swallow up the federal budget.

    The banning of ‘unhealthy’ behaviors is indeed obnoxious. But I think that you have a burden of proof in terms of showing another way that Medicare can control costs.

  26. Hippo says:

    For those that smoke Cigars, Use Medical Marijuana, Cigarettes, the government through Obamacare has found a way to stop you. Next will be anything they don’t approve of. Let’s say you like Peas and they don’t so they raise your mandatory healthcare fees. You go to the store purchase your Peas using your credit/debit card and next month you find an increase of 25%. They gotcha. Time to have a flat out revolution. They lied and forced this evil Obamacare taking our rights, freedoms and liberties from all Americans. Dear Lord Jesus Christ, Please come and take me home.

  27. fire says:

    For all that say smokers should pay a higher tax for smoking, they do all ready, price a pack of cigarettes. For those that claim smokers danger everyone around them and should pay a higher tax along with being overweight and the list goes on. Well you perfact people that think your so healthy, we know you pass you gas in public and that’s doing more harm than smoking with you methane gas leakage so you need to to pay 5 times as much and your dirty mouth add another 5 times and the list goes on. Obama lied to the American people and his signature healthcare should be struck down. Pay your own Hospital and doctor bills, don’t knock at my door we pay our bills and are not looking forward to paying your bills too. The poor don’t have to be poor they were offered 12 years free education so get a job and be responsible for your own actions. E.B.T.= Earned By Taxpayers…