Cali’s Tobacco Program Works

Tobacco cessation program in California cost a little to save a lot in health care

(RxWiki News) Smoking cessation programs aren’t cheap, but are they worth the investment? The answer is—absolutely. The years of health gained are worth far more than the cost of getting people to quit.

A recent study looked at the value of the California Tobacco Control Program from its start in 1989 to 2008. Researchers estimated the investment of $2.4 billion in tobacco cessation efforts resulted in $134 billion in healthcare savings over the course of 19 years.

"Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW."

James Lightwood, PhD, associate professor of clinical pharmacy at the University of California at San Francisco, and Stanton A. Glantz, PhD, professor of medicine and director of the University of California at San Francisco Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, worked together to crunch the numbers for healthcare savings from the California Tobacco Control Program.

Smoking-related illnesses are expensive. While helping people quit smoking may cost money, the reduction in smoking-related illnesses can counteract the cost of tobacco control programs.

For this study, researchers looked at the amount of money the state of California and private investors spent on the California Tobacco Control Program, the number of cigarettes people consumed in California per person, per year and changes in smoking-related illness in California between 1984-2008.

Tobacco control programs vary by state and can include:

  • Smoking cessation services: counseling, nicotine replacement therapy like patches, gum and other pharmaceuticals
  • Anti-smoking campaigns: commercials, posters and billboards
  • Taxation of tobacco products
  • Efforts to reduce underage smoking: student education, enforcement of smoking age restrictions
  • Tobacco cessation education: developing strategies for healthcare professionals to screen for smoking, intervene with smoking cessation services, educate patients and promote smoking cessation
  • No-smoking regulations: smoke bans in workplaces, restaurants and bars, parks, hospital and school campuses and other public space

From the start of the California Tobacco Control Program in 1989 to analysis in 2008, the rate of smoking was reduced by 6.79 billion packs of cigarettes. Researchers estimated the pre-tax revenue loss to tobacco companies from this smoking reduction to be worth $28.5 billion. For the same time period, healthcare cost from smoking-related illness were reduced by an estimated $134 billion.

Considering the tobacco control program only cost $2.4 billion from 1989-2008, the overall healthcare savings was a considerable return on investment. In terms of percentages, researchers estimated the tobacco control program was responsible for a 36 percent reduction in smoking and 31 percent reduction in healthcare costs relative to population expansion. 

Reductions in smoking included both people quitting smoking and people smoking fewer cigarettes.

Authors found the California Tobacco Control Program to have been very successful over the 19-year analysis period in terms of financial savings and years of life saved in the California population.

This study was published in February in PLOS ONE.

Grants from the National Cancer Institute and the California Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program funded this research. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
February 15, 2013