TOBACCO: State Spends Most Caring For Sick Smokers
California spends more than any state in the nation caring for sick smokers, according to a University of California-San Francisco study. Published in yesterday's Public Health Reports, the study found that in 1993, when 18% of the state smoked, Medicaid payments for smoking-related maladies were $1.7 billion while overall health costs reached $9 billion. Nationwide, the "total cost of caring for people with cigarette-related health care problems is estimated at $72.7 billion a year, almost six times the $12.9 billion estimated cost to Medicaid alone," according to the study. Dorothy Rice, lead author of the study and professor emeritus at UCSF, said, "'It's clear that the adverse health effects of smoking affects other population groups besides Medicaid recipients. The only way we can prevent this kind of expense is to develop a smoke-free society." The AP/Sacramento Bee reports that the researchers "crunched numbers in a huge federal database to compile all smoking-related payments made in 1993" by Medicaid, Medicare, Veterans Administration, military, private health insurance and individuals' own out-of-pocket expenses (Curtis, 9/10). The Contra Costa Times reports that a tobacco spokesperson did "not comment specifically on the UC report, but was skeptical of financial figures touted by industry critics." Scott Williams said, "Usually, if someone is looking at the industry from a critical standpoint, the price tag keeps going up and up." The Times reports that the "industry generally prefers the findings of Harvard Law Professor Kip Viscusi" who contends that "[p]er-pack cigarette taxes and smokers' generally earlier deaths outweigh their health costs" (Appleby, 9/10). "California's fight against Big Tobacco, now a combined lawsuit including the state, three cities and 15 counties, is seeking only the tobacco-related costs for state health programs such as Medi-Cal," the AP/Bee reports (9/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.