Stronger anti-smoking laws could save states millions

Higher tobacco taxes could be key deterrents to smoking and help curb treatment costs, studies show.

By Amy Lynn Sorrel — Posted July 5, 2011

Print  |   Email  |   Respond  |   Reprints  |   Like Facebook  |   Share Twitter  |   Tweet Linkedin

Tougher tobacco control laws could reduce smoking-related deaths and save more than $1.3 billion in tobacco-associated health care costs in 27 states without broad smoking bans in place, according to a June study by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

The state-by-state analysis looked at the potential public health and economic impact of what the organization considers comprehensive laws that bar smoking in all types of workplaces, restaurants and bars. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have such legislation in place.

If the remaining 27 states with weaker or no anti-smoking laws expanded their policies, total smoking-related deaths would drop by 624,000 over time, the ACS study found. Over five years, states could save millions in health care costs to treat smoking-related diseases, including $316.1 million for lung cancer, $875.6 million for heart attacks and $42.8 million for strokes. Another $128.3 million could be saved for treatment of smoking-related pregnancy complications.

In addition, nearly 400,000 fewer youths would take up smoking, according to the report, conducted with help from the Institute for Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

The estimates were based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data on smoking prevalence and mortality rates, state Medicaid spending data and various other surveys of medical care costs, smoker behaviors and cigarette pricing.

"When you consider tobacco use remains the No. 1 cause of preventable death, costing $96 billion in direct health care costs each year, it's obvious [these policies] can have an impact on the overall health care system," said Cathy Callaway, associate director of state and local campaigns for the ACS Cancer Action Network, a nonpartisan lobbying arm of the organization.

In a second study, experts found that increased tobacco taxes helped curb tobacco use and deaths among youths and adults and provided revenue to mitigate treatment costs associated with smoking-related diseases. Researchers estimated that a $1-per-pack tax increase in all 50 states could yield $645 million in health care cost savings over five years.

In 2011, cigarette taxes ranged from 17 cents per pack in Missouri to $4.35 per pack in New York, according to ACS data.

American Medical Association policy supports increased local, state and federal excise taxes on tobacco to discourage use. The AMA also encourages state medical societies to support local legislation mandating smoke-free workplaces and other public areas.

The studies could provide ammunition to legislators looking to toughen state anti-smoking policies, Callaway said.

"This shows that these are two policy interventions that work and that decision-makers and lawmakers can put into place and truly have an impact on public health and health care cost savings," she said.

The report is online (link).

Back to top



Read story

Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story

Read story


American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story

Read story

Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story

Read story

Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story

Read story

Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story

Read story

How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story

Read story

Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story

Read story

Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story

  • Stay informed
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS
  • LinkedIn