How Can We Reduce Tobacco Use?

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. It kills more than 400,000 Americans annually—more than HIV/AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, illegal drugs, murders, suicides and fires combined.

About 50,000 victims are adult nonsmokers who die because of exposure to secondhand smoke. Tobacco use also exacts a huge financial toll, costing the nation $96 billion in health care expenditures and another $97 billion in lost productivity annually.

Studies show that implementing proven, cost-effective policy approaches like higher tobacco taxes and smoke-free laws will protect Americans’ health and save health care dollars.

Yet cuts in state prevention and cessation programs and uneven application of smoke-free laws and tobacco taxes are hurting efforts to curtail smoking.

A national strategy that incorporates efforts on the federal, state and local levels can bolster the fight against tobacco.

This Health Policy Snapshot, published online in November 2011, examines the proven policies that reduce tobacco use and why progress has stalled.

Read more from RWJF's Health Policy Snapshot series.

Tobacco costs ~96 bil in health care costs and ~97 bil in lost productivity each yr

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