IRS Allows Deductions
For Smoking Cessation
TAX CUTS FOR SMOKERS -- Here's a message for decision makers who think the
danger of tobacco use is overplayed: The Internal Revenue Service thinks
tobacco is so deadly and so addictive that the agency is voluntarily giving
up money to help solve the problem. That's right, the IRS has decided that
the evidence regarding nicotine's addictive properties is so strong that
taxpayers should be allowed to deduct the cost of cessation programs and
prescription drugs as medical expenses.
The ruling itself probably won't cause a dramatic increase in cessation
attempts because overall medical expenses have to be very high before a
taxpayer actually benefits from the deduction. But the ruling has great
symbolic value since it comes from an agency that has a vested interest in
not giving the deduction, and public health experts are hopeful that it
might convince health insurers to be more generous in providing cessation
coverage. For now this story offers another piece of evidence that when
objective parties examine the vast body of research on this topic, there is
only one valid conclusion: Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of
death and chronic disease in the United States and sensible policy measures
must be enacted to reduce the grip it has on millions of smokers.
IRS Allows Some Deductions For Smoking Cessation
On Thursday, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reversed a 20-year-old
position by allowing smokers who participate in cessation programs to
itemize the service as a medical expense. Having analyzed data provided by
the Surgeon General since 1988, the IRS concluded: "Nicotine, a substance
common to all forms of tobacco, is a powerfully addictive drug." Attempts
to combat nicotine addiction will now be tax deductible just as alcoholism
and drug addiction are.
The law is specific about what is considered a deductible expense.
Over-the-counter medications such as the nicotine patch and gum are not
covered. In addition, an individual's medical expenses, not restricted to
smoking, must total at least 7.5 percent of their adjusted gross income to
qualify. The hope among some doctors is that the law will influence health
care providers to include anti-smoking programs in their coverage. Dr.
Michael Eriksen, director of smoking and health at the Centers for Disease
Control, said, "It's the right thing to do in terms of the dollar invested
and the dollar saved.
Curt Anderson, "IRS Allows Smokers Some Deductions," ASSOCIATED PRESS, June 10, 1999.
1999 -- All Rights Reserved|