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State tobacco control program saves billions in health care, UCSF study finds

Over a span of nearly 20 years, California’s tobacco control program cost $2.4 billion and reduced health care costs by $134 billion, according to a new study by UC San Francisco.

Additionally, the study — covering the beginning of the program in 1989 to 2008 — found that the state program helped lead to decreased sales of cigarettes by some 6.8 billion packs, which would have been worth $28.5 billion in sales to cigarette companies.

The study grew out of a special policy initiative by UCOP’s Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP). Responding to the needs of California’s tobacco control community, TRDRP in 2008 convened a statewide board that identified a chief priority: Conduct research to show that the California’s Tobacco Control Program was not only saving lives but also saving the state money.

The UCSF study was designed to calculate the fiscal impact of California’s large public health program on smoking prevalence and cigarette consumption. The new research shows that tobacco control funding is directly tied to reductions in both the prevalence of smoking and cigarette consumption per smoker and generates significant savings in overall health care expenditures.

“These health care cost savings began to appear almost immediately after the program started and have grown over time, reaching more than $25 billion a year in 2008,” said first author James Lightwood, a UCSF associate professor of clinical pharmacy.

The study was published Feb. 13 in the journal PLOS ONE. The research was supported by TRDRP Grant 18ST-0201 and National Cancer Institute Grant CA-61021.

See a more detailed story, with additional photos, on the UCSF website.

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