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NAQC Newsroom: Research

Smoking Behavior and Healthcare Expenditure in the United States, 1992–2009: Panel Data Estimates.

Monday, June 20, 2016  
Posted by: Natalia Gromov
James Lightwood, Stanton A. Glantz 
Smoking Behavior and Healthcare Expenditure in the United States, 1992–2009: Panel Data Estimates.
PLoS Med 13(5): e1002020. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1002020
Reductions in smoking in Arizona and California have been shown to be associated with reduced per capita healthcare expenditures in these states compared to control populations in the rest of the US. This paper extends that analysis to all states and estimates changes in healthcare expenditure attributable to changes in aggregate measures of smoking behavior in all states. State per capita healthcare expenditure is modeled as a function of current smoking prevalence, mean cigarette consumption per smoker, other demographic and economic factors, and cross-sectional time trends using a fixed effects panel data regression on annual time series data for each the 50 states and the District of Columbia for the years 1992 through 2009. We found that 1% relative reductions in current smoking prevalence and mean packs smoked per current smoker are associated with 0.118% (standard error [SE] 0.0259%, p < 0.001) and 0.108% (SE 0.0253%, p < 0.001) reductions in per capita healthcare expenditure (elasticities). The results of this study are subject to the limitations of analysis of aggregate observational data, particularly that a study of this nature that uses aggregate data and a relatively small sample size cannot, by itself, establish a causal connection between smoking behavior and healthcare costs. Historical regional variations in smoking behavior (including those due to the effects of state tobacco control programs, smoking restrictions, and differences in taxation) are associated with substantial differences in per capita healthcare expenditures across the United States. Those regions (and the states in them) that have lower smoking have substantially lower medical costs. Likewise, those that have higher smoking have higher medical costs. Sensitivity analysis confirmed that these results are robust. Changes in healthcare expenditure appear quickly after changes in smoking behavior. A 10% relative drop in smoking in every state is predicted to be followed by an expected $63 billion reduction (in 2012 US dollars) in healthcare expenditure the next year. State and national policies that reduce smoking should be part of short term healthcare cost containment.

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