Secondhand Smoke Costs North Carolina $288.8 Million Annually

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According to a new study, North Carolina’s Secondhand Smoke Healthcare Cost Burden, $288.8 million is spent each year in North Carolina to treat health conditions caused by exposure to secondhand smoke.

The study is modeled on one done in Minnesota by researchers at Johns Hopkins University and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota. In North Carolina, Clinical Informatics at Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina (BCBSNC) replicated the methodology, using North Carolina and national data.

Dr. Marcus Plescia, chief of the Chronic Disease and Injury Section of the N.C. Division of Public Health, will present the report findings to the North Carolina House Judiciary I Committee as they meet on Tuesday, March 17, to discuss House Bill 2, a bill to Prohibit Smoking in Public and Work Places.

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“This study is based on the 2006 U.S. Surgeon General’s report on secondhand smoke and also on North Carolina-specific data,” said Plescia. “It provides the first-ever look at the health care costs related to secondhand smoke in North Carolina.”

According to the new report, excess medical expenditure due to exposure to secondhand smoke in North Carolina is calculated at $288.8 million, based on healthcare costs in 2006 and adjusted to 2008 dollars. The estimate is conservative, as it does not consider other costs such as lost productivity, long-term care and disability services not covered by Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina (BCBSNC), or the impact on quality of life.

The report analyzed the cost of diseases caused by secondhand smoke as documented in the 2006 Surgeon General’s Report, The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke. For adults, those diseases include lung cancer, heart attacks and other heart diseases. Diseases caused by secondhand smoke in infants and children include low birth weight, acute lower respiratory illness, ear infections, and asthma. The new report calculated the proportion of each disease caused by secondhand smoke, and found that at least 107,067 North Carolinians are treated for conditions caused by secondhand smoke each year.

“With this new information, the state now has a tremendous opportunity to act and to have an immediate and lasting positive impact on the health of North Carolinians,” said Dr Plescia.

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