News & Commentary

Smoking Reduction Cuts Costs Quickly


A 10% decline in smoking prevalence in one year would lead to a $63 billion reduction in health care expenditures the next year, according to a study published in PLOS Medicine by researchers at the University of California–San Francisco.

The authors concluded that reducing smoking prevalence and cigarette consumption per smoker “are rapidly followed by lower health care expenditure.”

The study looked at health care costs linked to smoking in all 50 states and the District of Columbia between 1992 and 2009. Smoking is linked to cancer, cardiovascular and pulmonary disease, and pregnancy complications, among other problems. How quitting smoking might affect cancer can be difficult to gauge because the disease develops over many years.

But for some conditions, the benefits of smoking cessation happen quickly, the study stated. The risk of heart attack and stroke fall by about half in the first year after smoking cessation, and the risk of having a low birthweight infant because of smoking pretty much goes away if a pregnant woman quits smoking during the first trimester. Researchers used CMS data measuring the total public and private health care expenditures by state. Other data were provided by the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and the Census Bureau. Researchers also looked at the effects of public policy regarding smoking in each state, such as smoking bans at workplaces and in restaurants.