At What Cost? The Economic Impact of Tobacco Use on National Health Systems, Societies and Individuals : A Summary of Methods and Findings

By The World Bank | Go to book overview

Chapter 3:
Synopsis: Economic Assessments
of the Burden of Tobacco Use
on Societies

3.1 Introduction

Smoking impacts economies in at least two ways.

“The costs of tobacco go far beyond the tragic health consequences. Tobacco is devastating to the economic health of the world.”

Nakajima H. An Appeal from the Director-General of the World Health Organization for World No-Tobacco Day. Geneva, World Health Organization, 1995.

First, it is widely acknowledged that cigarette smoking is strongly associated with increased morbidity and mortality due to a number of diseases, the most recognized of which is lung cancer (7). In addition, the various substances contained in cigarette smoke are partly responsible for malignant tumours of the oral cavity and the pharynx, and are a main risk factor for myocardial infarction, cerebral thrombosis, arteriosclerosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases such as bronchitis and emphysema (8–10). Smoking therefore increases the risk of incurring a wide variety of diseases, resulting in increased health expenditures.

Second, smoking-related morbidity may also lead to lost productivity or premature death, resulting in costs to the smoker, the employer, and society at large.

A growing literature exists on the economic impact of smoking on societies throughout the world. The majority of published studies have been undertaken in developed countries, using data from North America, Europe, as well as Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Relatively few studies have examined the economic impact of smoking in developing countries. For the most part, published data on the economic impact of tobacco use consists of large-scale studies attempting to estimate country-level or population-level direct and indirect tobacco-related costs.

This chapter provides a synopsis of the most recent and important findings on the medical and nonmedical costs of tobacco use in different societies. It presents findings from ten countries, and summarizes relevant data in accompanying tables. Of the many available techniques examining the burden of tobacco use on societies (Chapter 2, Sections 2.4 and 2.5), the most popular research design is a prevalence-based COI study, described in Chapter 2 (Section 2.5.1).

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