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Tobacco's Toll on Wisconsin: 7,700 Deaths and $4.5 Billion Annually

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MADISON - About 20 people die each day in Wisconsin from smoking-related disease, according to the 2010 Burden of Tobacco report.


Despite recent statewide tobacco tax increases and community smoke-free laws, tobacco continues to be the single greatest cause of preventable deaths in Wisconsin.


"This continues to be very sobering news, especially given that these deaths are completely preventable," said Mark Wegner, MD, MPH, Chronic Disease Medical Director for the Wisconsin Division of Public Health. "Although we've made great progress in recent years, we must continue to fight against tobacco, and the best way to do that is with comprehensive tobacco prevention and control programming."


Annually, nearly 7,000 deaths due to lung cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory disease, and other smoking-related cancers are associated with direct smoking in Wisconsin. Another 750 deaths are associated with indirect smoking through exposure to secondhand smoke. Tobacco also exacts a heavy economic toll on the state. The report estimates that smoking costs Wisconsin $4.5 billion per year, including $2.8 billion in health care costs and $1.7 billion in lost productivity.


Health experts are optimistic that the state's smoke-free workplace law, which goes into effect July 5, will lower smoking rates and save lives. Smoke-free workplaces promote quitting and reducing the number of cigarettes smoked. They also reduce the exposure of non-smokers to secondhand smoke.


"These laws have been shown to have considerable health benefit, particularly reducing the incidence of heart of attacks, but one law alone can't fix a health problem of this magnitude," said UW Carbone Cancer Center researcher, Dr. Karen Palmersheim. "More than 900,000 Wisconsin residents smoke, including 74,000 middle and high school youth. Preventing kids from starting smoking and helping smokers quit will reduce the deaths, illness and high economic costs in the future. This is a long-term problem that deeply affects many people. It has taken years of effort and considerable resources to make the social and policy changes needed to reduce smoking."


The report also includes specific smoking data on each county and estimates the burden of smoking using the most current version of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Smoking Attributable Mortality, Morbidity and Economic Costs (SAMMEC) software program.


The Burden of Tobacco in Wisconsin is a collaboration of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services-Tobacco Prevention and Control Program, University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center, and the American Cancer Society.


Date Published: 04/07/2010

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