Blue Cross Report: Smoking Takes More Than 5,000 Lives, Costs Minnesota Nearly $3 Billion Annually

Nov 17, 2010, 09:32 ET from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota

Report plus Great American Smokeout offer reasons to quit, renew tobacco prevention efforts

EAGAN, Minn., Nov. 17, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new report issued by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross) shows that each year, smoking is responsible for 5,135 deaths in Minnesota and $2.87 billion in excess medical costs to treat diseases caused by smoking. The report, titled "Health Care Costs and Smoking in Minnesota," was completed by Jeffrey Fellows, Ph.D., and a nationally known health economist from the Center for Health Research at Kaiser Permanente Northwest.

On the eve of the American Cancer Society's 35th annual Great American Smokeout (Thursday, November 18), tobacco use continues to be a critical issue for Minnesota. Other studies show about 634,000 Minnesota adults still smoke as do another 56,000 Minnesota high school students. However, the nearly $3 billion economic impact is borne by all Minnesotans. Treating the diseases and conditions related to smoking – such as cancer, emphysema and heart diseases – equates to $554 for every man, woman and child in the state. Another way to illustrate just how much taxpayers, employers and governments spend on these preventable diseases and conditions is to consider what $2.87 billion could also buy:

  • 5 Target Fields = $2.7 billion
  • 12 I-35W Bridges = $2.8 billion
  • 72,000 Jobs at $40,000 = $2.9 billion

"The human and economic costs are staggering and senseless because tobacco use is completely preventable," said Marc Manley, M.D., chief prevention officer for Blue Cross. "At a time when budgets are in crisis, from our kitchen tables to the state capitol, we need to renew our focus on preventing disease. Since tobacco remains the leading preventable cause of death and disease, aggressive efforts are needed to keep youth from ever starting to smoke and to make it easier for more people to quit."

Minnesota is a leader when it comes to implementing strategies to reduce the harms of tobacco. Blue Cross, alongside other Minnesota health organizations, has advocated for a smoke-free workplace law and worked to raise the price of tobacco, protect youth from traditional and nontraditional tobacco products and offer resources to help smokers quit. Statistics indicate that these efforts are having positive effects, as Minnesota's smoking rate has declined from 22 percent in 1999 to 17 percent in 2007. Nationally, the smoking rate is about 20 percent.

Blue Cross' member smoking rate is even lower at 11 percent. But more work remains, as the tobacco industry continues to spend millions each year marketing its products to youth, women and populations that experience health disparities, and we are seeing a concerning rise in the number of people using multiple forms of tobacco.

Blue Cross encourages smokers to use the Great American Smokeout as an opportunity to make a plan to quit, or even quit smoking for that day. Blue Cross volunteers will be working side-by-side with student volunteers and the American Cancer Society to promote the Great American Smokeout at Rosemount High School. Volunteers will be encouraging students to take the "Smokeout Pledge" to avoid tobacco use, educating students about the hazards of cigarette smoke to positively impact their health. This is the second year Blue Cross has held this event at an area school near its Eagan headquarters.

As a health company, Blue Cross is committed to making a healthy difference in people's lives. Blue Cross has a long history of advocating for tobacco control on behalf of its members and the entire state, dating back to the 1990s when it won a historic settlement with the tobacco companies. Some of the creative initiatives Blue Cross has deployed to tackle tobacco use since then include:

  • Advocating for the Freedom to Breathe law to protect all workers from the harms of secondhand smoke, as well as a health impact fee to raise the price of cigarettes and keep youth from starting to smoke
  • Providing online and telephone quit services on bluecrossmn.com, including tailored coaching and cessation services for several populations that experience health disparities
  • Leading a collaborative of health organizations to form Call it Quits, a fax referral system that makes it easy for physicians to refer patients who smoke to phone-based coaching services
  • Helping employers adopt tobacco-free work sites and provide access to quit medications at no cost to their employees

Blue Cross members have free access to stop-smoking support. Call 1-888-662-2583 (BLUE) to get started. Uninsured or underinsured Minnesotans can call QUITPLAN® Services at 1-888-354-PLAN. A copy of the economic costs report is available at bluecrossmn.com.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, with headquarters in the St. Paul suburb of Eagan, was chartered in 1933 as Minnesota's first health plan and continues to carry out its charter mission today as a health company: to promote a wider, more economical and timely availability of health services for the people of Minnesota. Blue Cross is a not-for-profit, taxable organization. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, headquartered in Chicago. Go to bluecrossmn.com to learn more about Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.

SOURCE Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota



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