A new study estimates that a 10 percent reduction in the U.S. smoking rate would result in $63 billion in savings in healthcare costs one year later.
Researchers say the cost savings would come from reductions in risks from smoking-related diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes.
Fewer babies would be born prematurely, they report in the journal PLOS Medicine.
In addition to savings from the healthcare costs of smokers, the nation would also have fewer costs related to the effects of secondhand smoke, HealthDay reports.
“Our study shows that significant changes in health care expenditures begin to appear quickly after changes in smoking behavior,” study first author James Lightwood of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), said in a news release.
The researchers looked at the healthcare costs associated with smoking nationwide between 1992 and 2009. They found when smokers quit, the risks from smoking-related diseases drop quickly. When a person stops smoking, their risk of heart attack and stroke decreases by about 50 percent within one year, they found. The risk of having a low-birthweight baby almost disappears when a pregnant woman stops smoking in her first trimester.
“These findings show that state and national policies that reduce smoking not only will improve health, but can be a key part of healthcare cost containment even in the short run,” said study co-author Stanton Glantz, Director of the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.
The study found California, where smoking rates are well below the national average, spent $15 billion less on medical costs in 2009 than if smoking rates had been at the national average. Kentucky, where smoking rates are higher than the national average, spent $1.7 billion more on medical costs than if they had an average smoking rate.