Tom Harte: Hi! I am Tom Harte, Board Member of the National Association Of Health Underwriters and President of Landmark Benefits. Today I am discussing the high cost of smoking. Each year, nearly 500,000 Americans die from cigarette smoking causes. That's about one out of every 5 deaths. Tobacco usage is responsible for more deaths than HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides and murders combined. Smoking places a tremendous economic burden on the entire community. Not only just the cost of smoking burn through an individual's income, but it's a huge drain on our nation's pocket book. Nationally, the annual smoking attributable, healthcare expenditures run about 96 billion dollars per year. Though the hazards of smoking have been highly publicized for years, unfortunately one out of four people in every workplace still smokes, and this doesn't just leave to personal suffering and hardship, there is a direct correlation between the rising cost of health insurance premiums and our health. A single smoking employee can cause his or her employer over $12000 a year in added medical cost, additional disability pay, excess absenteeism, lost productivity and other costs. Preventable healthcare costs are raising more than 10% annually and represent one of the largest drains on businesses. If we don't tackle the root cause, a preventable chronic disease, business and individuals will continued to be burdened by rising healthcare cost. The new health reform law, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will allow companies beginning in 2014 to charge smokers upto 50% higher premium rates than non smokers. 47% of merely 600 large US employers surveyed by Hewitt Associates revealed that they already use or plan to use financial penalties over the next 5 years from employees who engage in non-healthy behaviors, such as smoking. As you can see, the cost of smoking is simply too high in the country. Preventing the onset of lifestyle related diseases, like smoking, is imperative to reigning in these high cost.