Medical expenses for smoking are higher than expected

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The consequential costs of tobacco consumption significantly exceed previous estimates

Smoking causes significantly higher medical costs than previously thought, according to a recent study by scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum München. The Helmholtz Zentrum reports that the first population-based calculation of the economic costs of cigarette consumption resulted in a “clear correction of the supply costs”. The researchers published the results of the current cross-sectional study in the specialist magazine "BMC Health Services Research".

The evaluation of the medical costs of tobacco consumption has shown that medical care and the absence from work of smokers causes 24 percent more costs than non-smokers, according to the Helmholtz Center in Munich. Former smokers who also quit smoking due to illness were said to have incurred costs that were even 35 percent higher. "For smokers, additional costs of more than 700 euros could be calculated for 2008, for ex-smokers of 1,100 euros," reports the Helmholtz Center. The economic costs of smoking are significantly higher than previously thought.

More precise measurement approach shows higher smoking medical costs The reason for the large difference between previous estimates of smoking medical costs and the current results is, according to the scientists, "a more accurate measurement approach." So far in previous calculations, "not all the health consequences of cigarette consumption are." may have been taken into account. Through the first-time inclusion of the so-called "KORA study, which has been researching the effects of genes, environmental influences and behavior on human health" for over 20 years, the costs of lost work and medical care could now be included, reports the Helmholtz Center in Munich.

30 percent of Germans are smokers The head of the Institute for Health Economics and Management in Health Care at Helmholtz Zentrum München, Professor Dr. Reiner Leidl emphasized that "smoking is one of the greatest avoidable health risks" and that "the exact assessment of the costs of illness is an essential basis of efficient prevention". In fact, the higher valuation of medical expenses could also justify more expensive prevention campaigns. "Successful prevention can avoid a higher burden of illness and is therefore more beneficial for society than previously thought," report the experts from the Helmholtz Center. According to the researchers, around 30 percent of the German population still smoke today.

Smoking as a risk factor for numerous diseases A look at the diseases for which smoking is recognized as a risk factor quickly shows why tobacco consumption is associated with such high economic costs. The uptake of tar, nicotine, carbon monoxide and other pollutants through the lungs leads to increased cancer in the throat and larynx, esophagus and lungs. The risk of pancreatic cancer, stomach cancer, kidney cancer and bladder cancer also increases. In addition, there are severe respiratory complaints such as asthma, chronic bronchitis or smoking cough (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; COPD).

Consequential costs of smoking that are difficult to estimate Furthermore, the cardiovascular system is affected when smoking. This results, for example, in coronary artery disease and the associated increased risk of heart attack. Tobacco consumption is also considered a significant risk factor for a stroke. In addition, there is the so-called smoker, which is caused by a blockage of the blood vessels in the leg. Smokers are also more susceptible to aneurysm (blood vessel sagging). In addition to immediate respiratory problems and cardiovascular diseases, metabolic diseases such as diabetes are also associated with smoking. In addition, tobacco consumption weakens the immune system, making smokers more susceptible to infectious diseases overall. Numerous other diseases are associated with smoking and passive smoking must also be taken into account when assessing the health consequences. However, the above list of possible complaints is sufficient to make it clear that smoking is associated with considerable medical costs for society. Here it can only be assumed that the current calculation does not yet cover the full extent of the follow-up costs. (fp)

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