According to the Global Economic Cost of Cancer Report released by the American Cancer Society (ACS) this past summer, cancer’s price tag last year was $895 billion, a sum that represents 1.5% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP). This is its cost in terms of disability and productive years of life lost (and doesn’t even begin to take into account the cost of curing and managing the disease from a medical perspective). The ACS report claims that cancer’s cost to society is more than that of AIDS, malaria, the flu, and all other communicable diseases combined. The report, produced with support from Livestrong®, the foundation established by cancer survivor and renowned pro cyclist Lance Armstrong, assessed the burden of cancer on global productivity in terms of actual working years lost to battling and succumbing to the disease, adjusted for living wages in the affected areas. Lung and respiratory cancers came in at the top of the list, accounting for $180 billion of the $895 billion. Smokers die an average 15 years earlier than non-smokers. Smoking and obesity are fueling a rise in chronic diseases around the world.
So wouldn’t a massive wellness campaign more than pay for itself? Of course, more research monies need to be found and allocated to finding better ways of combating cancer (whose research budgets are way out of whack with respect to its impact, when compared to funding allocated to other diseases). But so many straight-forward and low-cost, no-cost, and even cost-saving measures can be taken to set many on the road to prevention. With the price of cigarettes at about $5 per pack, a cup of super-premium tea costs considerably less than a smoke, as unrealistic and unfair as such a comparison might be. But walking, taking the bus, and cycling are cheaper, so much healthier, and so much kinder to the planet than fueling your car up for a short commute to work, school, or shopping.
It is definitely realistic to expect that a premium cup of tea can help wean young people off sweetened, carbonated, chemically enhanced, and frozen fatty beverages. If we look at the problem from a global economic perspective, the impetus in favor of encouraging and enabling simple preventive measures is overwhelming. Ultimately, we’re responsible for our own wellness, and that of our families and communities. At The Tea Spot, we’re on a mission to make loose-leaf tea easy and tasty enough to make it the preferred beverage choice for your family. With our 10% for Cancer Wellness initiative, we’re working as hard and fast as we can to get the message and tools to allow this to happen into the hands of as many people as possible.
Just imagine if there were a campaign to take 1% of the lost GDP in the U.S. and use that budget – about $400 million, or about half the country’s total annual tea revenues – to replace less-healthy beverages in public high schools with fresh whole-leaf tea. Could it reduce the overall onset of chronic diseases here by 1%? What if that budget were used to establish bike paths to the 400 largest suburban high schools, or enhance lunches in those same schools with local produce? The economic analysis alone should be compelling enough to move us to treat wellness as a necessary investment.