Study: Smoking costs us millions
Smoking, a habit that contributes to a number of illnesses and often results in early death, costs Nebraskans an estimated $844 million in lost productivity and health care, according to Gov. Mike Johanns.
Johanns released the results of a state analysis of tobacco-related medical costs from 1998 and the economic productivity expense from 1999 during a news conference Monday morning, just days before the Legislature is expected to debate raising the state's tobacco tax.
Johanns has recommended a 50-cent hike in the tax on a pack of cigarettes, with most of that money, about $40 million next year, earmarked to help cure the state's budget shortfall.
The Legislature's Revenue Committee has recommended a more modest 20-cent hike, with about $19.5 million aimed at the budget problem.
Johanns said the release of the tobacco cost report was not timed for the debate. The report was in the works for several months. "It would have come out one way or another," he said.
The 50-cent increase is supported by anti-tobacco groups, which say steep increases in the price of cigarettes help curb smoking.
About 8,900 fewer Nebraska teens would start smoking each year with the 50-cents-per-pack hike, said Dr. Richard Raymond, Nebraska's chief medical officer, using statistics from a national youth smoking prevention group.
In fact, the drop in smokers is built into the state revenue estimates on tobacco tax. Each penny increase brings in about 0.07 percent less in tax revenue because fewer people are buying cigarettes at that higher price.
Johanns listed Nebraska's smoking costs calculated by methods developed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
â€¡Â¤In 1998 tobacco-related nursing home costs at $139 million were the largest expense, followed by ambulatory health care costs at $116 million, hospital costs at $104 million, prescription drugs at $39 million and other costs at $21 million.
â€¡Â¤Nebraska annually spends about $252 per capita on smoking-attributable direct medical expenditures. That's $252 for every person in the state, no matter their age or whether they smoke.
â€¡Â¤In 1998 Nebraska's Medicaid program for low-income seniors and families spent about $105 million on smoking-related illnesses and diseases in the state.