Stick Better Than Carrot For Saving Lives – With Both Covid And Smoking

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Stick Better Than Carrot For Saving Lives – With Both Covid And Smoking; Appeals Only Marginally Effective Against Massive Disinformation Campaigns

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Using A Stick Is Much More Effective Than A Carrot

WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 26, 2021) - Using a stick is much more effective than a carrot in preventing unnecessary deaths and disabilities from smoking and also now also from Covid, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who led the successful battle to save millions of smoker lives, and who has already begun contributing to saving lives threatened by Covid.

Actually, says Banzhaf, "stick" is a misnomer since the measures proven to be so effective in getting smokers to quit, and now holdouts to be vaccinated, aren't designed to punish their unhealthy conduct, but rather to prevent them from continuing to inflict the damage it causes on the majority in the form of risks to life and health, as well as in huge additional financial costs.

It has long been known that warnings and other health messages - even when coupled with incentives such as medical assistance and financial rewards - were not very effective in getting smokers to quit; in part because they had to try to overcome a massive disinformation campaign by the tobacco industry.

What was effective were restrictions and requirements - e.g., bans on smoking on airplanes, at public places, and in workplaces - says Banzhaf, who led the fight for smoking bans during flights and then elsewhere.

The purpose was not to punish smokers (a stick) but rather to protect nonsmokers; but, by making it very inconvenient not to quit, many smokers yielded to that incentive, he says.

He adds that when companies went further and started insisting on having a smoker-free work force, similar to a drug-free work force, compliance - despite some initial grumbling and treats of quitting - went even higher.

The Incentive To Quit Smoking

In addition, by requiring smokers to bear more of the huge medical and other costs they had been imposing on others, the incentive to quit was substantially increased, and became even more effective.

Banzhaf cites as examples the higher premiums he and the NAIC helped persuade health insurance to charge smokers, and especially the 50% smoker surcharge he helped promote under Obamacare.

The professor explains that the purpose of these financial moves once again was not so much to punish smokers or to pressure them to quit, but simply so that the huge costs they were imposing - estimated to be over $12,000/yr annually per smoker - would not be borne by nonsmokers in the form of higher taxes, lower workplace benefits, and ballooning health insurance premiums.

Now experience, backed up by research, is proving that the same strategy - making being unvaccinated more inconvenient and expensive - is, as with smoking, more effective than warnings and cajoling in getting people vaccinated.

Proof Of Covid Vaccination

In other words, making employees and patrons at public venues provide proof of vaccination, requiring those who might be permitted to remain unvaccinated to pay for their own frequent Covid tests, charging higher health and other insurance rates for unvaccinated people (and also for any unvaccinated persons on their plans), and even declining to perform some medical operations on those refusing to be vaccinated, is the most effective way to fight Covid, and to protect the majority of Americans from infection, argues Banzhaf.

Here are a few examples:

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that lotteries to encourage vaccinations have little effect - “no statistically significant association” - in achieving that goal. In contrast, New York's vaccination requirement get some 90% of its health care workers vaccinated.

Indeed, the figures from even a month ago demonstrate the amazing effectiveness of New York's requirement that health workers be vaccinated:

  • Strong Memorial Hospital quickly achieved a 95.5% vaccination rate
  • Albany Medical Center's vaccination rate leaped to 98%
  • St. Barnabas Hospital went from 20% unvaccinated to about 3%
  • The Mohawk Valley Health System went up from 70% to about 96%

Vaccination Requirements

United Airlines, one of the first big companies to require workers to be vaccinated or lose their jobs, found that, despite initial grumbling, about 99% of its employees agreed to be vaccinated. Similarly, Delta Airlines achieved an over 80% compliance rate by charging those who decline to be vaccinated a $200-per-month health insurance surcharge. Ochsner Health, the largest nonprofit health care system in Louisiana, now has the same surcharge.

After Tyson Foods announced a vaccine requirement in early August, its vaccination rate jumped from 50% to at least 80%, even before the deadline for getting a shot.

Novant Health in North Carolina, which originally announced that 375 of its 35,000 employees had been suspended and would soon be fired for being unvaccinated, found that 200 of the 375 finally did get vaccinated to keep their jobs,

Despite a few widely reported situations where many employees threatened to quit - usually in situations where defiance was encouraged and led by recalcitrant unions - vaccine requirements have generally been very effective, are gaining in public support, have largely been upheld by the courts, and have lead to very few actual firings - the same results which occurred many years ago when companies first banned smoking on the job, and later even off the job.

Making those who refuse to be vaccinated bear the consequences of their decisions - i.e., imposing some "personal responsibility" - has proven to be a very effective weapon in saving lives, and in helping to return life (especially life in the workplace and in many public places) to a near normal, with even less need for the vaccinated to be burdened with mask requirements, proclaims Banzhaf.