New Reports: Strong State Tobacco Control Policies Could Save Hundreds of Thousands of Lives and Billions of Dollars in Health Care Costs

Jun 15, 2011, 13:30 ET from American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN)

Comprehensive Smoke-Free Laws and Tobacco Tax Increases Could Reduce the Number of Smokers by 2.5 Million, Avert Nearly 2 Million Deaths, and Save Nearly $2 Billion in Health Care Costs

WASHINGTON, June 15, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Two new reports from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) released today measure the dramatic health and economic benefits of implementing strong tobacco control policies in the states. The results provide new evidence that comprehensive smoke-free laws and increased tobacco taxes have the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars in health care costs.

According to the reports, jointly titled Saving Lives, Saving Money, if all states enacted comprehensive smoke-free laws and tobacco tax increases, over time they could reduce the number of smokers by 2.5 million, avert nearly 2 million deaths, and save nearly $2 billion in health care costs. The smoke-free report is the first of its kind to quantify the potential reduction in smokers, deaths averted and health care costs saved if states with weak or no smoke free laws were to enact comprehensive laws. The tobacco tax report analyzes data from every state to determine the potential lives saved, revenue raised and Medicaid dollars saved with a $1.00 cigarette tax increase over current levels.

"Tobacco is the only legal product that kills when used as directed, and it costs billions of dollars in health care spending," said John R. Seffrin, Ph.D., chief executive officer of ACS CAN. "We now have concrete evidence that enacting comprehensive smoke-free laws and increasing state tobacco taxes can save millions of lives, prevent smokers from picking up the habit and save states significant dollars in health spending. Strong state tobacco control policies aren't just a good idea in stemming the tide of the tobacco pandemic – they're a necessity."

Comprehensive smoke-free laws, which include all restaurants, bars and workplaces, reduce exposure to secondhand smoke, encourage people to quit or cut down on smoking, and prevent youth from starting to smoke. Data show they also reduce disease and health care spending, and improve employee productivity. Currently, 23 states and the District of Columbia have enacted comprehensive smoke-free laws. If the 27 states that do not have comprehensive smoke-free laws implemented them:

  • More than 1 million adults would quit smoking.
  • Nearly 400,000 youth would never start smoking.
  • We could save more than 600,000 lives.
  • State economies would also save nearly more than 1.3 billion in the costs to treat lung cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and pregnancy complications over five years.

Increasing cigarette excise taxes has been proven to reduce the number of current and potential smokers. Research shows that every 10 percent increase in the price of tobacco reduces youth smoking rates by 6.5 percent and overall cigarette consumption by 4 percent.

Cigarette taxes are also a powerful economic tool, directly producing sustained increases in state revenues and resulting in large savings in health care costs. If every state nationwide increased its tobacco tax by $1.00:

  • Nearly 1.4 million adults would quit smoking.
  • Nearly 1.7 million youth would never start smoking.
  • 1.3 million people could be saved from smoking-related deaths.
  • State economies would raise $25.7 billion in tax revenue (a 54 percent increase over current revenue) and, over five years, save more than $645 million in health treatment costs.

"In response to the overwhelming evidence of the harms of tobacco use, the tobacco industry continues to spend millions of dollars per day encouraging youth and adults to smoke, and opposing proven tobacco control policies that reduce smoking rates and improve public health," said Christopher Hansen, president of ACS CAN. "The most effective way to tackle tobacco use and save lives is for lawmakers to protect and pass strong tobacco control laws in the states."  

Tobacco Control in the States

During the past 10 years, 47 states and the District of Columbia have raised their cigarette taxes in more than 100 separate instances. The current average state tobacco tax is $1.45, with 21 states still having taxes at less than $1.00 per pack. New York has the highest cigarette tax at $4.35 per pack and Missouri has the lowest cigarette tax at 17 cents per pack. No state comes close to matching the health and economic costs attributed to smoking, which are estimated at $10.28 per pack.

Currently 23 states and the District of Columbia have a comprehensive smoke-free law in place that covers all types of workplaces, bars and restaurants. Keeping all workplaces, restaurants and bars in a state 100 percent smoke-free is the best way to protect all residents from the dangers of secondhand smoke.

Many states still need to close loopholes that allow for smoking in ventilated areas, casinos, bingo parlors, hookah bars, or cigar bars, at certain times of day in some venues, or for certain events. These exemptions weaken the laws and do not adequately protect the public. It is also critical for states that currently have strong laws in place to work to protect them and not allow any new exemptions that may put the public, especially service and hospitality workers, at risk for increased exposure to secondhand smoke.

Forty-five years after the Surgeon General's report first found that tobacco smoke was a health hazard, the use of tobacco products remains the nation's number one cause of preventable death, killing approximately 443,000 Americans and costing $96 billion in direct health care costs each year. Secondhand smoke alone kills nearly 49,000 non-smoking Americans every year, including 3,400 deaths from lung cancer.

The findings in the reports are based on standard assumptions about how tobacco users react to changes in tobacco prices and laws around tobacco use, how these policies reduce the number of youth who become regular smokers, and the most recent health data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the percentage of smokers who would be expected to die prematurely from smoking. In estimating the cost savings, the reports use the latest studies and data on the costs of smoking-related disease and the savings to states without the burden of treating lung cancers, heart attacks and strokes related to smoking.

To view the reports and state-specific data, please visit


ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem.  ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard. For more information, visit  

SOURCE American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN)