Feb. 13 2013
WASHINGTON, DC – A study published today by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, adds to the growing evidence that tobacco prevention and cessation programs not only reduce smoking and save lives, but also save money by reducing health care costs.
The study found that from its launch in 1989 to 2008, California's tobacco control program reduced health care costs by $134 billion, far more than the $2.4 billion spent on the program. Additionally, the study found that California's program helped reduce the number of cigarette packs sold by approximately 6.8 billion. According to the study's authors, the new research shows that tobacco control program funding is directly tied to reductions in smoking rates and cigarette consumption per smoker, generating significant savings in health care expenditures. The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.
California launched its pioneering tobacco control program in 1989 with funding from a voter-approved cigarette tax increase. As a result, the state has reduced rates of smoking and lung cancer far faster than the nation as a whole. California's success has spurred similar efforts to fight tobacco use across the United States and around the world.
This study adds to the growing evidence that tobacco prevention and cessation programs deliver a terrific return on investment. A 2011 study found that during the first 10 years of Washington state's tobacco prevention program, the state saved more than $5 in tobacco-related hospitalization costs for every $1 spent on the program. Over the 10-year period, the program prevented nearly 36,000 hospitalizations, saving $1.5 billion compared to $260 million spent.
These studies underscore how penny-wise and pound-foolish the states have been in shortchanging tobacco prevention and cessation programs. The states must restore funding for tobacco prevention programs that have been slashed by 36 percent (about $260 million) since 2008. The states this year are collecting a record $25.7 billion from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but are spending less than two percent of it ($459.5 million) on these life-saving programs, according to a report issued in November by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other public health organizations. The states are providing just 12.4 percent of the funding recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is shameful and must improve.
Even California's progress is at risk because the state has steadily cut funding for its tobacco control program and has failed to increase its cigarette tax since 1999. California's current spending on tobacco prevention ($62.1 million) is just 14 percent of what the CDC recommends, and the state's cigarette rate of 87 cents per pack ranks 33rd among the states and is well below the state average of $1.48 per pack. To keep making progress, California must significantly increase its cigarette tax and dedicate some of the revenue to its tobacco control program.
These studies also show why Congress should support the Prevention and Public Health Fund created by the health care reform law and defeat proposals to cut it. The prevention fund is a vital source of support for tobacco prevention and cessation efforts, including state and community grants, telephone quitlines to help smokers quit, and media campaigns to discourage kids from smoking and encourage smokers to quit. The recent studies provides concrete evidence that investing in prevention can pay tremendous dividends by reducing the very diseases that cost the most to treat. Cutting the prevention fund would be a fiscally irresponsible step backward that would increase health care costs.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people and costing the nation $96 billion a year in health care bills. The new California study confirms that tobacco prevention works to save lives and save money. It makes no sense for elected officials to shortchange programs that are proven to reduce health care costs and save money for taxpayers.