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Helping Smokers Quit is Cost-Effective

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Media Advisory: December 2, 1997

A new report released by the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) and summarized in the December 3 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) finds that smoking cessation interventions are cost-effective. According to The Cost Effectiveness of AHCPR's Smoking Cessation Guideline Report, while all types of cessation treatment were found to be cost-effective, those involving more intensive counseling and the nicotine patch proved to be especially worthwhile. Smoking cessation interventions are less costly than other preventive medical interventions such as the treatment of high cholesterol. In fact, at an average cost of about $2,600 per year of life saved, smoking cessation treatment is especially cost-effective when compared with cholesterol treatment, a routine intervention which costs nearly forty times as much to treat a year.

These findings are based on an analysis of the first-year of implementing the clinical recommendations in AHCPR's Guideline for Smoking Cessation, released in April 1996. The guideline advises clinicians to screen all patients for tobacco use, urge smokers to quit and provide proven interventions.

The report also found that if the interventions were provided to 75 percent of U.S. smokers aged 18 years and older, the cost would be $6.3 billion ($32.31 per capita) in the first year of implementation. As a result, society could expect to gain 1.7 million new quitters at an average cost of $3,779 per quitter, $2,587 per life-year saved (the cost to society to gain the extra life-years for smokers who quit through intervention [$6.3 billion/2.4 million total life-years saved]), and $1,915 for every quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) saved. Costs per QALY saved ranged from $1,108 to $4,542, with more intensive interventions being more cost-effective. Group intensive cessation counseling exhibited the lowest cost per QALY saved, but only 5 percent of smokers appear willing to undertake this type of intervention.

Copies of the Report can be obtained through the AHCPR Clearinghouse. Call toll free 800-358-9295 or write to: AHCPR Publications Clearinghouse, P.O. Box 8547, Silver Spring, MD 20907.

For more information on the AHCPR-sponsored Smoking Cessation Clinical Practice Guideline, select Smoking Cessation: A Guide for Primary Care Clinicians or Smoking Cessation: Articles Used in Guideline Meta-Analyses.

For additional information, contact AHCPR Public Affairs: Karen Migdail, (301) 427-1855, (; Harriett Bennett, (301) 427-1861, (

The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


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