Study: Health Care Costs Would Drop $63 Billion If Only One-Tenth Of Smokers Quit

cigaretteThere is an interesting study out of the University of San Francisco California by James Lightwood (associate professor in the UCSF School of Pharmacy) and his colleagues on the cost of smoking. The team found that if 1 in 10 people in the US quit smoking, health care costs would drop $63 billion in next year.


The health care costs were not only calculated for smokers but those who are affected by second-hand smoke. The reduction came with a fall in heart disease, lung disease and complications during pregnancy.

Smoking cigarettes causes about one out of every five deaths in the US each year. That translates to more than 480,000 deaths each year. Mortality is higher for men (278,544) than women (201,773).

These are truly staggering figures. While I remain a firm believer that individuals should make this choice for themselves, the study would suggest that even greater educational programs to deter smoking would be efficient if they can help reduce these numbers of smokers.

Source: Science News Journal

26 thoughts on “Study: Health Care Costs Would Drop $63 Billion If Only One-Tenth Of Smokers Quit”

  1. Yeah, that 57 year old guy who died last week of heart failure died of bad food. He was smoking on he way to the hospital but no tat was not da cause. Dumb smoker is redundant

  2. The standard Western diet is far more inflammatory than smoking. In fact, smokers who do not subsist on the standard Western diet, often live far into their nineties. Get rid of the standard Western diet, and you get rid of 98% of all healthcare costs.

  3. Governments are conflicted, they like the revenue that cigarettes bring in but not the costs of treating downstream illness caused by cigarettes. There is also the issue that tobacco is still big business and enjoys great support in many states where it is a cash crop for very small farmers. And as seen by the tobacco settlements the health clawback is a bit of a dodge. Even the most anti-tobacco state, California could not resist reverting large sums of the tobacco settlement bonanza to its general fund.

    The reduction of tobacco is actually rather easy when all is said and done as it is a cost sensitive indulgence. Each time California imposed higher taxes on cigarettes on saw a decrease in both use and users. With a pack of cigarettes climbing toward $5.00 a pack it does become a case of choosing your daly drug, caffeine (Starbucks etc) or nicotine. The pressure point is easy enough to discern and since this is a drug mostly used by low-wage earners, raising the price is an easy enough disincentive. It is especially a good disincentive in the early teenage years when funds are hard to come by. While $50.00 a pack would just drive the whole thing underground I could see a price point of $7.00 to $10.00 a pack nationwide being a real incentive to both quit and to never pick up the habit in the first place. But Congress would have to have the will, and since a tax that high would hit the general fund and cause major issues for tobacco growing states and the industries that help fund the Representatives campaigns in those states such a facile solution would actually be a tall mountain to climb.

    I’m not even going to explore the thicket of how class fits into this other than to note that cigarettes are a marker for people lower down on the economic and social class structure. It appears that this section has been specifically targeted by the tobacco companies, especially the minority cohort of this section. It’s a tangled spider’s web and best avoided before punters start pounding the keyboards in all caps.

    Tobacco and alcohol are the big two legal drugs that do cause no end of health and social issues and both are amenable to price pressure. Raising the tax on both would go a long way to reduce use. Punitive taxation would be the best policy for both drugs, but to enact such a policy would run into strong headwinds. The other part of puzzle is to treat these items as the addicting drugs that they are which does mean targeted education and help to quit. Cost is the best leaver left, as education can only do so much and social ostracism of smokers has reached its limits. ( The huddled masses of the nicotine dependent exiled to their one specific place of exile has become ubiquitous.) The real question is there the political will to enact higher tobacco taxes in the status quo of legislative inertia.

  4. BS. No savings will accrue from smoking cessation.

    People will live longer, which is a good thing, and healthcare dollars will be spent along the way, dwarfing any supposed savings.

    Smoking is way down from 40 years ago.
    Health care costs have not declined, but increased markedly.

    Quitting smoking is the right thing to do, but it won’t save a dime.

  5. Getting government out of healthcare and stomping on the AMA make all these points moot. Some price competition, not fees dictated by government and the AMA would help all of this. As it is now, you have to charge a bottom-line price to provide a medical service, and it isn’t small. If I buy a new MRI machine and can hammer out x-number more MRIs in a day, I will want to charge a lower fee than my competition to generate more business. Not allowed to though. Why is this idea so radical??
    If you need to buy services related to the systemic impact of your smoking habit, that’s fine. People have to understand it’s their responsibility, and they need to pay for it.

  6. Outlaw tobacco completely. No smoking no chewing. Put the criminals in prison with the meth heads. Deny them medical care in prison.

  7. On the notion of a two pool insurance and medicare set up: Ask each human to agree to a drug and tobacco test. If they don’t agree they go in the drug pool of insured and medicare/medicaid folks. If they agree to take the test then sort them out that way. The dumb smoker insurance pool will pay higher premiums. The dumb smoker medicare pool will pay higher taxes which go directly into that fund. As to smokers who get cancer. Don’t spend too much saving them. Give em a gun. Guns are quicker than smoking. Suicide is not always painless.

  8. What do we do with high risk groups as we embrace universal healthcare? Bottom of the list for procedures using scarce resources? ( i.e. transplants)

  9. My dad died of emphasema caused by smoking cigarettes most of his life. He died at 65, but looked like he was 85, having slowly suffocated over a period of 10 years or so. Couldn’t walk across the room without having to stop and pant. Dreadful way to go.

  10. Watching Chicago Med the other night and they did a nice job of portraying alcohol withdrawal. Ugly.

    I still find it interesting that the one recreational drug which is universally legal is also the only on which produces withdrawal which can be, and often is, fatal. No other intoxicant known to man can kill you by its withdrawal mechanism; only alcohol can do that, and that is the drug we choose to make legal.

  11. I always wonder how true it is that smokers cost us more. Health care costs to keep healthy people alive into their 90’s is huge. Aren’t smokers doing us a favor by getting out sooner?

    I think runners should be taxed also since they are always having medical issues with knee joints.

  12. And if the average voter improved their civics literacy score by 10% they would still not pass the test. That would mean we would still be electing tyrants for President and reelecting the 90% of Congress we said we don’t want in office.

    Yeah, let’s save $63 billion in healthcare costs; as if healthcare savings will be passed on to the consumer.

  13. The bifurcated insurance pools are of course for medicare and medicaid as well. Make the smokers pay higher taxes the whole time they are growing toward retirement or early medical needs on medicaid.
    Also put a huge tax on a pack of cigarettes. If they holler, make em pay, fifty dollars every day. You are gonna die so o u t spells out and out you go.
    I am tired of subsidizing all of these suicides.
    Guns are quicker.

  14. What Al O’Heem said. It’s mostly the underclass who smoke and the underclass who join the military. Both cause many unnecessary deaths. Easily available birth control, abortions, reduced glorification of violence, reduced glorification of alcohol, and far more funding to address learning disorders would reduce poverty, smoking, war atrocities, and suffering overall.

  15. Two groups of insurance. Test all Americans for traces of meth, heroin, pot, and of course the big killer, tobacco. Put all those drug users into one insurance pool. All non users in another. Different strokes for different folks.

  16. Unnecessary deaths and astronomical costs. Oh wait, you’re not talking about wars of aggression?

  17. When people die of smoking the cause of death is seldom put on their death certificate as smoking of tobacco or whatnot. Instead it is heart disease or whatnot. So the statistics are probably low.

    “Dumb smoker”: redundancy.

    Younger humans smoke because their parents are too lame to warn them severely enough of the consequences.

    If your offspring are smokers it is your fault.

  18. Sounds like a biased study.

    How about an unbiased one on the cost of Fast Food, Potato Chips, Soda etc etc since they kill far more people every day than smoking does.

    Lets just ban EVERYTHING that is bad for you. We can all sit around in padded rooms eating salads.

    1. JT did not suggest in his post that cigarettes should be banned. No one posting a comment here suggested banning cigarettes. Smokers can continue to puff away and ruin their health to their heart’s content. Given that you probably are clueless about scientific research, your claim that it sounds like a biased study is most likely just you sounding off for political or some other ideological reason. Did you even read the study? What is your evidence that the study employed biased or flawed methodology? Do you even how the study was conducted? Do you even know the first thing about how a research study of any kind is conducted?

  19. Fwiw, quick googling that’s apparently 2% of US healthcare spending
    63e9 / 3.1e12 * 100% = 2.03%

    40e6 smokers 2014
    4e6 give up smoking
    320e6 muricans

    So that’s 1.25% of americans quitting smoking would reduce us healthcare spending by 2%, okay, that’s in the ballpark for facial validity. That would imply smoking is a primary cause of their healthcare spending and that smoking causes problems that nonsmokers don’t face. Maybe.

  20. Yes, but we would lose even more in state and federal tobacco taxes.

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