OLYMPIA - 3/28/02 - Attorney General Christine Gregoire said today a new report shows that the state should continue to provide adequate funding for anti-smoking efforts as a means to reduce the state's Medicaid costs.
The report by the American Legacy Foundation, Saving Lives, Saving Money: Why States Should Invest in a Tobacco-Free Future, said that Washington spent more than $285 million on smoking-caused illnesses last year. It estimates the state could save $13.5 million per year if smoking was reduced by 25 percent. The projected state savings ranged from $2.7 million if the number of smokers is reduced by just five percent to $27 million if the number is reduced by 50 percent.
The actual state-by-state savings are probably even larger than the report projects, since its estimates do not include what people would save on private insurance, out-of-pocket medical expenditures, cigarettes, cigarette fire damages, cleaning and lost productivity due to smoking-related illness.
In addition, the estimates do not include child-health costs, including neonatal intensive care, asthma, and treatment of tobacco-induced ear infections. These savings will directly improve state economies because money not spent on health care, cigarettes, and other costs of smoking will be spend on other commodities. While many states, including Washington, are struggling with budget problems, the Legacy report shows states can't afford to stop investing in tobacco control and prevention, Gregoire said.
"This report shows tobacco prevention control works and it saves states both lives and money," Gregoire said. "In the names of all the mothers and wives and husbands and fathers who have died from tobacco use, it is time we attack this public health nightmare. It is time to spend tobacco money on tobacco prevention and control."
Saving Lives, Saving Money found that states that invested in comprehensive tobacco control came out ahead financially. California saved $3 in direct health care costs for every $1 it spent on tobacco control programs, while Massachusetts saved well over $2.
Currently, Washington spends $17.5 million a year on its tobacco prevention and control program.
"The Master Settlement Agreement presented the single biggest opportunity in the history of public health to address the most preventable cause of death in America," Gregoire said. "I hope we won't look back and say it was the biggest lost opportunity in history."
Gregoire is the chair of the American Legacy Foundation, which was created by the November 1998 Master Settlement Agreement. The report will be available on the Legacy web site, www.americanlegacy.org.