Smoking May Impair U.S. Air Force Readiness
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Cigarette smoking costs the United States Air Force (USAF) more than $107 million a year in medical expenditures and lost productivity, federal researchers report.
``Smoking-attributable lost work time is particularly important for USAF operational commanders because it adversely affects military readiness,'' write Major Anthony S. Robbins, MD, and colleagues from the USAF and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
``However, the impact of smoking on productivity also is relevant to civilian employers,'' they note. Smoking accounts for $50 billion to $73 billion a year in US medical care costs--6% to 12% of all medical costs, according to the report.
The researchers note that while the prevalence of smoking among USAF members equals the rate in the general US population, smokers in the USAF population are probably healthier than smokers in general due to tough physical training requirements.
``If so, average productivity losses to civilian employers could be larger than those found in this military group,'' the authors explain.
The investigators found that current smokers account for $20 million in medical care expenditures, or 6% of the total annual Air Force medical system costs. Lost work time--including smoking breaks and days lost due to illness--amounted to $87 million, with male officers accounting for the majority of costs.
In a statement, the USAF noted that the cost of cigarettes on military bases is lower than in civilian stores, ``but this is the case with all items sold in (Army and Air Force Exchange Service) facilities,'' the statement said, adding that there is no special discount given on tobacco products.
The researchers analyzed a health survey completed by more than 5,000 men and women in the USAF aged 17 to 64. Respondents were asked about their weekly alcohol consumption, exercise habits, and body mass index as well as smoking status.
The data indicate that current smokers account for nearly 900,000 lost workdays, or about 3,573 full-time equivalent positions.
``These results support USAF and Department of Defense efforts to decrease the prevalence of smoking among...personnel,'' Robbins and colleagues conclude, adding that the use of tobacco control programs ``remains an effective way to reduce associated medical and productivity losses.''