HEALTH AND MEDICINE If 10% of US Smokers Quit, $63 Billion Would be Saved in the US Alone

(Science News Journal)

Even if you aren’t a smoker yourself, you probably know that not only is smoking harmful to your health but it gets pretty expensive. Health care costs are said to decrease dramatically within the first year of a smoker quitting. Not only that, but if 1 in 10 people in the US chose to stop smoking, a staggering $63 billion in health care costs would be saved in next year.

During a recent study by researchers from the University of San Francisco California, first author James Lightwood (associate professor in the UCSF School of Pharmacy), discovered that health care needs drop exponentially at a very quick rate when people alter their smoking behaviors.

The researchers looked at the data between the years of 1992 and 2009, which included health care costs that were directly linked to smoking. All 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia were used in their observations. The study looked at not only people who smoke themselves, but those who are exposed to cigarette smoke (second-hand smokers). Smoking has been shown to cause numerous serious health problems including heart disease, lung disease and complications during pregnancy.

Very early on in the study, researchers found evidence that both getting people to quit smoking and even promoting smoking a lower number of cigarettes would quickly lead to a steady decline in overall health care costs. For smokers looking to lead healthier lifestyles, there is promising news: once an individual quits smoking, their risk of both heart attack and stroke drop by about 50% in a year. When women stop smoking during their first trimester, the risk of having an underweight child all but diminishes.

Study co-author Stanton Glantz, who is the director of the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, says their latest findings show the importance of state and national policies that work to reduce smoking. Not only does this help create a much healthier world, but can be a very important key to contain health care costs. The study estimates that California alone spend $15 billion less in 2009 on medical costs because smoking was far below the national average at the time. Kentucky on the other hand had a higher than average rate of smoking, which cost the state $2 billion more in health care.

The study authors say regions that implement public policies in an effort to reduce smoking show very substantial decreases in their overall medical costs. Regions without tobacco control policies have much higher medical costs.

Smoking cigarettes causes about one out of every five deaths in the US each year, that is more than 480,000 deaths each year (including deaths from second-hand smoke). Mortality is higher for men with 278,544 (second-hand smoke deaths included) deaths and 201,773 of women (second-hand smoke deaths included) smoke related deaths each year. Life expectancy is also greatly reduced for smokers to at least 10 years shorter than for nonsmokers on average.

The complete study can be read in PLOS Medicine magazine, published on May 10th, 2016.

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