Health care spending drops quickly with reduced smoking

A new study lead-authored by UCSF School of Pharmacy faculty member James Lightwood, PhD, has found that reducing smoking cuts health care spending, not just in the long- or immediate-term, but the very next year.

For example, the analysis found that a 10 percent decline in smoking in the United States would be followed by an expected $63 billion reduction (in 2012 U.S. dollars) in national health care spending the following year.

“Our study shows that significant changes in health care expenditures begin to appear quickly after changes in smoking behavior,” said Lightwood, a faculty member in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy who is affiliated with the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.

While smoking and secondhand smoke can cause cancer over years, the study notes that risk for other smoking-caused conditions such as cardiovascular disease (heart attacks, strokes), lung disease, and complications of pregnancy drop within day or months of tobacco cessation and reduction.

The study, published today in PLOS Medicine, extends previous analyses of such near-term health care spending reductions in California and Arizona to all 50 states for the years 1992 through 2009. The authors conclude: “State and national policies that reduce smoking should be part of short-term health care cost containment.”


Health Care Costs Drop Quickly After Smokers Quit


School of Pharmacy, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, PharmD Degree Program

About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.