A new study has revealed around 30 percent of all cancer deaths in the US in 2019 can be directly attributed to smoking cigarettes, accounting for an astonishing 123,000 deaths and nearly $21 billion in lost earnings (not a particularly pleasant metric to use, we know). In states with weaker tobacco control laws, the findings were particularly damning, suggesting tobacco control does work at reducing deaths and that decreasing smoking popularity should be a focus in national healthcare.
"Our study provides further evidence that smoking continues to be a leading cause of cancer-related death and to have a huge impact on the economy across the U.S.," said Dr. Farhad Islami, senior scientific director of cancer disparity research at the American Cancer Society and lead author of the study, in a statement.
"We must continue to help individuals to quit using tobacco, prevent anyone from starting, and work with elected officials at all levels of government for broad and equitable implementation of proven tobacco control interventions."
The research was published in Cancer Epidemiology.
Taking data from people in the US who died from smoking-attributable cancer aged 25-79 in 2019, the researchers combined the deaths to estimate total Person-Years of Lost Life (PYLL), as well as income lost as a result of these deaths. Confounding variables, such as socioeconomic status, were controlled for by selecting education-specific data.
Combined, a massive two million PYLL resulted from smoking-related cancers, including throat, lung, and liver. Southern and Midwestern states had the highest lost earnings, with Missouri topping the board at almost $15 million.
Now, the researchers hope that introducing further measures in states that are currently lax on smoking could help to curb the issue.
"Increasing the price of cigarettes through excise taxes is the single most effective policy for reducing smoking,” said Dr Ahmedin Jemal, Senior Study Author and Senior Vice President of Surveillance & Health Equity Science, American Cancer Society, in a statement.
“In many states, state tobacco excise tax rate remains low, particularly in the states with the highest smoking rates."