Tobacco control programs reduce health-care costs

Published: Monday, August 25, 2008 - 21:29 in Mathematics & Economics

Tobacco control programs not only reduce smoking, but reduce personal health care costs as well, says new research published in PLoS Medicine by Stanton Glantz and colleagues at the University of California San Francisco. Glantz and colleagues analysed data on smoking, health care expenditures, and exposure to the recent California state tobacco control program, and compared them to data from 38 control states in the United States. Control states were those without comprehensive tobacco control programs prior to 2000 or cigarette tax increases of $0.50 or more per pack over the study period. The researchers found savings of US$86 billion in personal health care expenditure between 1989, the start of the tobacco control program, and 2004. These cost savings grew over time, reaching 7.3% in 2003-2004. The personal health care expenditure savings represented about a 50-fold return on the $1.8 billion spent on the tobacco control program during the same period. Glantz and colleagues found that 3.6 billion fewer packs of cigarettes were sold during the 5 years of the tobacco control program, which represents a loss of $9.2 billion to the tobacco industry in pre-tax cigarette sales.

These findings on cost savings are important, say the authors, because so little money has been invested in tobacco control programs despite large amounts of money generated from state tobacco taxes and legal settlements with the tobacco industry. According to the 2008 WHO report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, not a single country fully implements all key tobacco control measures. The report also states that governments around the world collect 500 times more money in tobacco taxes each year than they spend on anti-tobacco efforts. Glantz and colleagues' study provides the first evidence that tobacco control programs can reduce health care costs, providing further justification for funding such programs.

The California Tobacco Control Program (CTCP) is a state-funded public policy intervention established in 1989 with the goal of decreasing tobacco-related diseases and deaths in California by reducing tobacco use across the state. The program is focused on adults and social norm change rather than on adolescent tobacco use prevention, on the premise that "the next generation cannot be saved without changing the generations who have already reached adulthood."

Source: Public Library of Science


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