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February 14, 2006

Secondhand Smoke Cost Marylanders $597 Million in Lost Lives and Medical Costs in 2005

The medical treatment and loss of life associated with exposure to secondhand smoke cost Maryland residents more than $597 million in 2005, according to a study conducted by Hugh Waters, PhD, a health economist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The study was conducted on behalf of the American Cancer Society. The findings were presented on February 15 at a hearing before the Maryland House of Delegates, which is considering legislation to ban smoking in all restaurants and bars.

In his study, Waters estimated the costs of medical conditions proven to be caused by exposure to secondhand smoke. These conditions include lung cancer, heart attacks and strokes in adults and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), ear infections and asthma in children. Waters calculated that 1,577 adults and 24 children died in 2005 as a result of passive smoking in Maryland. Medical costs were estimated to be $523.8 million for adult illnesses and deaths and $73.8 million for those of children. These findings are compatible with national estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of 50,000 deaths.

“These are conservative estimates of the true cost of secondhand smoke exposure in Maryland. It does not reflect the total impact of secondhand smoke, because it does not include costs for outpatient treatment and prescription drugs. It also does not include any indirect costs associated with losing time from work or other activities due to illness and medical care,” said Waters, who is an assistant professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of International Health.

Added Waters, “Eleven states and numerous municipalities have opted to ban smoking in restaurants and bars. We now know enough about the effects of secondhand smoke to show that there is a strong economic rationale for this type of legislation.”--Tim Parsons

Public Affairs media contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Tim Parsons or Kenna Lowe at 410-955-6878 or  paffairs@jhsph.edu.