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Report: Quarter-Billion Dollar Price Tag for Smoking in Wisconsin

December 4, 2007

Madison, WI – A quarter billion dollars. That's the Medicaid price tag attached to smoking in Wisconsin over the next five years, according to a new report from RTI International. The study says the healthcare system saves big bucks when people quit smoking because of the costly health conditions linked to tobacco.

Dona Wininsky with the American Lung Association in Wisconsin says that makes a strong argument for a statewide smoke-free workplace law, as well as the recent tobacco tax increase, and funding for smoking-cessation programs.

"If we could just get even a percentage of those people who are smokers into good cessation programs and help them quit, those costs would come down enormously."

She says programs like the Lung Association's online "Freedom from Smoking" website and the state's "Tobacco Quit Line" are proven winners at helping people kick the habit. The report finds that the group of Wisconsin smokers that is now age 24, for example, will cost the Medicaid system a total of $1 billion over their lifetimes. Wininsky says that highlights the need for prevention programs for youth.

"Once they've started smoking, it's really, really hard to quit, and that puts them on the road to all those health problems and those high health costs that we're paying. Prevention is the number one best way to keep those healthcare costs down, simply because if you don't start to smoke, you'll never have to quit."

She says the recent tobacco tax increase will help keep youth from picking up the habit, and a smoke-free workplace law would be an incentive for current smokers to quit.

The RTI International study is available online, at

Rob Ferrett/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - WI