Does Curbing Tobacco Use Lower Health Care Costs?

Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, and is responsible for $200 billion annually in health care costs and lost productivity.

Comprehensive tobacco cessation programs can save significant dollars over time. Case studies of state tobacco cessation programs—which may include smoke-free workplace rules and higher taxes on tobacco products, among other measures—show a return on investment of as high as $50 for every $1 spent.

Yet tobacco cessation programs are often underfunded or cut despite positive returns—particularly during economic slowdowns. The $206 billion Master Settlement Agreement between tobacco companies and states in 1998 is particularly notable, with less than 2 percent of the 2012 portion of the settlement being spent on prevention programs. 

This Health Policy Snapshot, published online in August 2012, examines the value of tobacco cessation programs in economic terms, despite chronic underfunding.

Read more from RWJF's Health Policy Snapshot series.

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billion is spent each year on tobacco-related health care costs