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Health Topics - Tobacco

Smoking-related Illness Costs $300 billion each year


Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States. Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths in the United States every year,1 and the harmful effects of tobacco use are not limited to the user. Secondhand smoke exposure also causes serious disease and death, and an estimated 1 in 4 nonsmokers—58 million people—in the United States are exposed to it every year.2

Economic Burden

Smoking-related illness in the United States costs over $300 billion each year—about $170 billion for direct medical care for adults and more than $150 billion in lost productivity, including $5.6 billion in lost productivity due to secondhand smoke exposure.3

Risk Factors

Certain populations are more likely to smoke, including but not limited to:4

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People with lower educational levels

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Young Adults

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People living in the South and Midwest

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People of low socioeconomic status

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People with a disability/ limitations

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People with mental illness

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Adults with substance abuse disorders

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Expanding Access to Evidence-Based Tobacco Treatments that Help People Quit

Tobacco use can be reduced by expanding access to evidence-based treatments that help people quit. One way to do this is by removing barriers, such as out-of-pocket costs, that make it harder for tobacco users to access covered cessation treatments. In addition, insurers can promote increased use of these covered treatments. The Community Preventive Services Task Force recommends policies and programs to reduce tobacco users’ out-of-pocket costs for evidence-based cessation treatments based on strong evidence of effectiveness in increasing the number of tobacco users who quit.

Raising the Price of Tobacco Products

Increasing the price of tobacco products is the single most effective way to reduce consumption. A 10% increase in price has been estimated to reduce adult cigarette consumption by 3–5%. Research on cigarette consumption suggests that both youth and young adults are two to three times more likely to respond to increases in price than adults. The Community Preventive Services Task Force recommends interventions that increase the unit price of tobacco products based on strong evidence of effectiveness in reducing tobacco use.

Implementing Hard Hitting Media Campaigns to Educate the Public about the Harmful Effects of Tobacco Use and the Benefits of Quitting

Mass-reach health communication interventions target large audiences through television and radio broadcasts, print media (e.g., newspaper), out-of-home placements (e.g., billboards, movie theaters, point-of-sale), and digital media to change knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors affecting tobacco use. Intervention messages are typically developed through formative testing and aim to reduce initiation of tobacco use among young people, increase quit efforts by tobacco users of all ages, and inform individual attitudes on tobacco use and secondhand smoke. The Community Preventive Services Task Force recommends mass-reach health communication interventions based on strong evidence of effectiveness in decreasing the prevalence of tobacco use and increasing cessation and use of available services—such as quitlines.

Enacting Comprehensive Smoke-Free Policies that Prohibit Smoking in all Indoor Areas of Workplaces and Public Places

Smoke-free policies include government policies and private-sector rules that prohibit smoking in indoor spaces and public areas. State and local ordinances often establish smoke-free standards for indoor spaces, such as workplaces, restaurants and bars. Private-sector smoke-free policies may include individual tobacco-free campus policies that prohibit all tobacco use at a company’s buildings and grounds. The Community Preventive Services Task Force recommends smoke-free policies to reduce secondhand smoke exposure and tobacco use on the basis of strong evidence of effectiveness in reducing exposure to secondhand smoke, reducing the prevalence of tobacco use, increasing the number of tobacco users who quit, reducing the initiation of tobacco use among young people, and reducing tobacco-related morbidity and mortality, including acute cardiovascular events.

Featured Resources

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6|18 Evidence Summary (Reduce Tobacco Use)

CDC’s 6|18 initiative provides health care partners with rigorous evidence about high-burden health conditions and associated interventions to inform their decisions to have the greatest health and cost impact. This summary provides a look at tobacco use in the United States, evidence of the effectiveness of prevention programs, and current payer coverage for these programs.

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Technical Package: Strategies for Improving Tobacco Control

Most states have some tobacco control laws or programs but fall short of a comprehensive approach. Comprehensive programs have a greater population health impact and the proven potential to generate savings greater than their implementation costs. These technical packages contain targeted, action-oriented information for stakeholders interested in advancing population health strategies.

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Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programspdf icon

This guidance document describes an integrated programmatic structure for implementing interventions proven to be effective and provides the recommended level of state investment to reach these goals and to reduce tobacco use in each state.

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Using Health Systems Change to Increase Tobacco Cessation: What Can State Tobacco Control Programs Do? (FAQ)pdf icon

As part of the 2014 Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs, CDC asks states to engage in health systems change work. This document has frequently asked questions about health systems change that are intended to help state tobacco control programs plan and implement health systems change initiative.

Featured Tools

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Office on Smoking and Health’s Interactive Data Dissemination Tool: OSHData

A comprehensive tobacco prevention and control data in an online, easy to use, interactive data application. You can explore popular datasets, charts, and maps, and you can view/print STATE System fact sheets.

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State Tobacco Activities Tracking and Evaluation (STATE) System

Build your own reports by selecting the topics, states, and years of data. Explore the State Highlights report to see a variety of data from across the system for a single selected state. Use Interactive Maps to access key data from across the System in a US map and data table.

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CDC Sortable Stats

Sortable Stats is an interactive data set comprised of behavioral risk factors and health indicators. This site compiles data from various published CDC and federal sources into a format that allows users to view, sort, and analyze data at state/territory, regional, and national levels.