If the price of cigarettes reflected the full cost to society of smoking, a $7 pack would cost more than $16, according to a new study released recently by the American Lung Association.
Penn State University researchers conducted the study, titled "Smoking Cessation: The Economic Benefits." The study provides a nationwide cost-benefit analysis comparing the costs to society of smoking with the cost benefits to states providing help to quit the habit.
The retail price of a pack of cigarettes in the state is on average nearly $7. The combined medical costs and productivity losses attributed to each pack of cigarettes sold is more than $16.
The study shows that if Utah invested in comprehensive smoking-cessation benefits, the state would see an average return of $1.22 on each dollar spent on helping smokers quit.
According to the Weber-Morgan Health Department, the Ogden and Ben Lomond areas of the county rank fifth and sixth for lung cancer deaths. From 2004 to 2008, downtown Ogden had 44 such deaths, Riverdale had 38, South Ogden had 32 and Roy had 33.
In Davis County, Clearfield had 29 lung cancer deaths between 2004 and 2008, Layton had 25, Syracuse 22 and Woods Cross 35.
Smoking also is responsible for cancer of the throat, mouth, pancreas, kidney, bladder and cervix, said Anna Guyman, health educator for the health department.
"For a regular smoker, one pack per day, the current cost of smoking in Weber County for one year is approximately $2,400. Five years is approximately $12,000," Guyman said.
The American Lung Association states that the study comes at an important time, as cessation benefit provisions are being implemented at the state and federal levels as a result of health care reform legislation.
In the study, researchers performed a cost-benefit analysis of access to smoking- cessation programs using state specific data. Smoking-cessation programs based on three treatment alternatives were studied. The study compared the costs of providing smoking-cessation treatments to the savings possible if smokers were to quit.
The study concluded that, in Utah, the yearly cost to the economy attributed to smoking is in excess of $1.1 billion. Utah has approximately 190,000 resident smokers and an additional 42,000 visitors who smoke. The study also concluded workplace productivity losses came to $337 million, premature death losses equaled $353 million, and direct medical expenditures came to $448 million.
During the past year, the Weber-Morgan Health Department's Tobacco Prevention and Control Program efforts included youth cessation and education classes, referrals to the Utah Tobacco Quitline to 30 pregnant women, education to health care providers and health clinics, adult cessation classes, prevention programs in the Weber, Ogden and Morgan school districts, anti-tobacco advertising contests, and training and education on outdoor smoking laws.
The Davis County Health Department also offers numerous classes and training courses aimed at smoking cessation and prevention.
The study concluded that the benefits of smoking-cessation programs statewide greatly outweigh the costs of implementing them.
"I think any time you can raise awareness it's a good thing," said Lori Buttars, public relations director at the Weber-Morgan Health Department.
"When people can see the dollars spent and the health toll, it maybe makes them think twice about what they are doing."