Tobacco Use Continues Its Toll On Wisconsin

Contact Person: Corie Zelazoski, Community Health Specialist, Oneida County Health Department

Costs associated with cigarette smoking continue to rise in Wisconsin, according to a study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM).

Smoking annually costs the state $3 billion in health care expenses and $1.62 billion in lost productivity, according to the 2015 “Burden of Tobacco in Wisconsin” study by UWM’s Center for Urban Initiatives and Research (CUIR). The total cost of $4.62 billion marks an increase of $100 million dollars from the last “Burden” report released in 2010.

The report estimates that more than 7,300 people die annually in Wisconsin from smoking-related diseases – that’s 15 percent of all deaths among people aged 35 and older.

“When it comes to the prevalence of cigarette smoking, however, Wisconsin has been making progress,” says Karen Palmersheim, Ph.D., an epidemiologist and lead author of the report. The adult smoking rate is now 18 percent, which is down 2 percentage points from 2012. “This is an all-time low for the state,” adds Palmersheim. “Fewer high school youth are smoking too, with a dramatic decrease from 33 percent in 2000 to 11 percent in 2014.”

Experts attribute the drop in smokers to a combination of the state’s comprehensive tobacco prevention program, smoke-free workplace law, and higher cigarette taxes.

“But the costs continue to increase because of the long-term, chronic conditions caused by smoking, especially among those who become addicted at a young age,” says Palmersheim.

Most of those deaths each year are associated with cardiovascular and respiratory disease, and smoking-related cancers (6,700 deaths), according to the report. But nearly 10 percent are deaths caused by exposure to secondhand smoke and smoking-related fires.

“These numbers are still very sobering, given that these deaths are preventable,” says Palmersheim. “If we hope to improve the situation, it’s imperative that programmatic efforts continue to prevent kids from ever starting to smoke and help smokers quit. If the rate of smoking continues to go down, we should see the number of related deaths and health care costs go down too.”

The research was supported by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Division of Public Health, Bureau of Community and Health Promotion, Tobacco Prevention and Control Program.

See the entire report online at:

The burden of smoking is calculated using the most current version of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Smoking Attributable Mortality, Morbidity and Economic Costs (SAMMEC) software program.

For a summary of data collected for Wisconsin on smoking rates, points of concern, trends and cost, click on: Data Look Jan2015 


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Categorized as Blog - Smoking and Substance Abuse, Press Releases

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