Smoking can not only kill you - it helps to widen income inequality, according to a new Atlanta Fed working paper by Brian S. Armour and M. Melinda Pitts. Moreover, smokers face a higher marginal tax rate. Here is the abstract for Smoking: Taxing Health and Social Security:
While the health risks associated with smoking are well known, the impact on income distributions is not. This paper extends the literature by examining the distributional effects of a behavioral choice, in this case smoking, on net marginal Social Security tax rates (NMSSTR). The results show that smokers, as a result of shorter life expectancies, incur a higher NMSSTR than nonsmokers.
In addition, as low-earnings workers have a higher smoking prevalence than high-earnings workers, smoking works to widen the income distribution. This higher tax rate could have implications for both labor supply behavior and Social Security system funding.