A study from the American Lung Association conducted by researchers at Penn State University has found that helping smokers quit not only saves lives but also offers favorable economic benefits to states.
The study provides a nationwide cost-benefit analysis that compares the costs to society of smoking with the economic benefits of states providing cessation coverage.
Smoking was found to result in costs to the US economy of some $301 billion, including workplace productivity losses of $67.5 billion, costs of premature death at $117 billion, and direct medical expenditures of $116 billion.
The study also calculated the combined medical and premature death costs and workplace productivity losses per pack of cigarettes. Using a nationwide average retail pack of cigarettes cost of $5.51, the costs and workplace productivity losses nationwide were found to be $18.05—i.e., more than three times the average retail price of a pack of cigarettes.
“This study spells out in dollars and cents the great potential economic benefits to states of helping smokers quit,” American Lung Association President and CEO Charles D. Connor said in a news release.
“We urge the District of Columbia and all states to offer full coverage of clinically proven cessation treatments for smokers, which will not only save lives but also money.”
In addition to identifying the high costs of smoking to the US economy, the study also now provides state governments with compelling economic reasons to help smokers quit, Mr. Connor said. For example, the study finds that if states were to invest in comprehensive smoking-cessation benefits, each would receive, on average, a 26% return on investment—i.e., for every dollar spent on helping smokers quit, states will see on average a return of $1.26.
Some states and the District of Columbia would see a higher return than others—For example, the news release notes, the study found that Washington, DC, would receive the highest return on its investment. For every dollar spent on smoking-cessation treatments, there would be a return of $1.94.
Other states with higher than average returns are Louisiana ($1.47), Massachusetts ($1.43), Maine ($1.41), Ohio ($1.41), and North Dakota ($1.41). State specific data can be found at www.lungusa.org/cessationbenefits.
The study derives the economic benefits by considering lower medical costs due to fewer people smoking, increased productivity in the workplace and reduced absenteeism, and premature death due to smoking.
Funding for the study was provided through an unrestricted research grant from Pfizer, Inc.