U.S. Can Save 5.4 Million Lives by Following California’s Lead

August 09, 2011

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California recently reported that its aggressive tobacco control programs had reduced adult smoking to just 11.9 percent in 2010 — an historic low for the state.

That got us thinking: What would happen if the United States as a whole reduced smoking among adults from the current national rate of 20.6 percent to 11.9 percent?

Our research department ran the numbers.

If the national rate of smoking among adults were just 11.9 percent, there would be 20 million fewer adult smokers.

And that would mean:

  • 5.4 million fewer smoking-caused deaths
  • $190 billion in long-term health care cost savings
  • $34 billion in Medicaid program cost savings

California achieved its historic gains by increasing the tobacco tax, running tough media campaigns to counter industry marketing, funding programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, and implementing the nation's first statewide smoke-free law.

California's success is a timely reminder that we know how to win the fight against tobacco. With so many lives and dollars at stake, elected officials in every state should be racing to copy them.

Read our earlier post on California's success.