Enacting comprehensive state laws that ban smoking in workplaces and restaurants as well as raising the cigarette tax by $1 per pack across the country could bring in billions in revenue for cash-strapped states, while also saving nearly 2 million lives, according to new estimates from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
The ACS CAN released two reports on June 15 that examined the public health benefits and economic savings from strengthening state antitobacco policies. In one report, researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago looked at what would happen if the 27 states without comprehensive smoke-free laws were to enact such laws. In the second report, the same researchers considered the impact if all 50 states and the District of Columbia were to adopt a $1 per pack increase in the cigarette excise tax.
"The bottom line is that strong tobacco control policies are a win-win for state legislators, for the states themselves, and [for] their constituents," said John R. Seffrin, Ph.D., chief executive officer of ACS CAN.
Currently, 23 states and the District of Columbia have enacted comprehensive laws that ban smoking in all bars, restaurants, and workplaces. The remaining 27 states have either less-comprehensive laws or no laws at all in this area. But when the researchers considered the impact if these 27 states were to adopt comprehensive smoking bans, they found that more than 1 million adults would quit smoking, nearly 400,000 children would never start smoking, and smoking-related deaths would fall by 624,000.
On the economic side, those 27 states would see a savings of about $316 million from lung cancer treatment, $875 million from heart attack and stroke treatment, and $128 million from smoking-related pregnancy treatment. And the researchers estimated that Medicaid programs in those 27 states would save a collective $42 million.
The report on tobacco taxes found similar public health and financial gains if a $1 per pack tax increase were enacted around the country. Such a tax would result in 1.4 million adults quitting smoking, 1.69 million children never starting to smoke, and 1.32 million fewer people dying from smoking-related causes. States also could benefit from both decreases in Medicaid spending and increased revenue. The report estimated that the tax would cut Medicaid spending by about $146 million across the states, and would bring in $8.62 billion in new state revenue.
Dr. Seffrin said that the results are attainable. An increasing number of states are adopting smoke-free laws and nearly all the states have increased cigarette excise taxes in recent years.
But he noted the ACS CAN is concerned that the tobacco industry is working to erode current tobacco-control laws at the state level. For example, there have been efforts in several states to add exemptions to the smoke-free laws.