Exposure to Secondhand Smoke Costs U.S. $10B Annually, Study Finds
Exposure to secondhand smoke adds $10 billion in annual costs to the U.S. economy for medical expenses, lost wages and other costs, according to a study scheduled for release on Wednesday by researchers at the Society of Actuaries and the J. Mack Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University, the Wall Street Journal reports.
For the study, researchers examined more than 200 studies published since 1964 and found that, although the percentage of nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke has decreased in recent years, the exposure results in $5 billion in annual direct medical costs. Common medical conditions related to secondhand smoke exposure include sudden infant death syndrome, chronic pulmonary disease, asthma and spontaneous abortion.
Exposure to secondhand smoke also results in $4.7 billion in annual indirect costs, such as lost wages and expenses related to disabilities, according to the study.
"If you look at any one individual, the probabilities are pretty low, but if you happen to be the one who gets lung cancer, it's significant to you," lead study author Donald Behan, a senior research associate at the Robinson College of Business, said. He added, "There seems to be a relatively greater impact on children than adults."
According to Tim Harris, a member of the SOA board of governors and a principal at actuarial firm Milliman, the study could prompt life and health insurers to charge more for coverage of those exposed to environmental tobacco smoke. Harris said that current measures of environmental tobacco smoke exposure are imprecise but added that insurers could ask about exposure at home or work.
Edward Sweda, a senior attorney with the Tobacco Products Liability Project at the Northeastern University School of Law, said that the study likely will play a larger role in the public policy debate over smoking bans than in current tobacco litigation (Francis, Wall Street Journal, 8/17).