CDC: Smoking accounts for 9% of all healthcare spending

For more than half a century, it's been known that cigarette smoking takes a huge personal toll on those who light up. But now a specific cost has been assigned to the healthcare system as well.

About 9 percent of all healthcare dollars are spent as the result of smoking, or 90 cents for every $10 spent, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Reuters reported.

To reach that conclusion, CDC researchers linked data on healthcare use and costs from the 2006-2010 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey to the 2004-2009 National Health Interview Survey. As a result, they determined 21.5 percent of the 40,000 patients analyzed were current smokers, and 22.6 percent were former smokers. Those numbers were then tied to prior data on smoking-related disease and deaths, and adjusted for factors such as excess alcohol consumption, obesity, and each patient's relative wealth and poverty.

A much smaller survey published by the Journal of the American Medical Association earlier this year concluded smoking contributed $17 billion a year to overall health costs. That figure is much smaller amount than the CDC study, which concluded the price tag exceeded $170 billion a year. In 2013, the agency strongly encouraged the nation's doctors to make smoking cessation a priority for their patients.

Altogether, smoking led to 9.6 percent of Medicare spending, 15.2 percent of Medicaid spending and 32.8 percent of other government healthcare spending by departments, such as Veterans Affairs and the Indian Health Service. Altogether, government sources paid for 60 percent of the total smoking-related costs in U.S. healthcare system.

"Fifty years after the first Surgeon General's report, tobacco use remains the nation's leading preventable cause of death and disease, despite declines in adult cigarette smoking prevalence," said the CDC's Xin Xu, who led the study.

To learn more:
- read the Reuters article