Washington, D.C. - Subsequent to a June 2006 report by the Surgeon General that confirmed secondhand smoke causes lung cancer and heart disease, the American Academy of Actuaries (AAA) has released a dollar figure to go along with it. The effects of secondhand smoke on nonsmokers in the United States cost nearly $6 billion in medical and economic costs in 2004, according to an actuarial study entitled "Economic Effects of Tobacco Smoke." Cori Uccello, senior health fellow of the Washington-based AAA, analyzed the implications of the study, which estimated costs related to diseases caused by secondhand smoke. Medical costs to care for nonsmokers suffering from coronary heart disease and lung cancer as a result of secondhand-smoke exposure is estimated to have reached $2.6 billion in 2004," Uccello said. "This includes the medical care of nearly half a million people suffering from coronary heart disease, and an estimated 2,500 patients newly diagnosed with lung cancer -- an extremely deadly form of cancer -- as a result of exposure to secondhand smoke." Using U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data, the Americans for Nonsmokers Rights report that employees who smoke cost businesses in Marion County, Indiana, $260.1 million in increased health insurance premiums, lost productivity, and absenteeism, as well as additional recruitment and training costs resulting from premature retirement and deaths due to smoking. In addition, economic losses due to lost wages and benefits from disability or premature death of nonsmokers caused by exposure to secondhand smoke are estimated at $3.2 billion for 2004, giving a low-bound cost total of nearly $6 billion. In an effort to mitigate risk, many healthcare providers, such as Aetna, Cigna and Blue Cross Blue Shield, have implemented online campaigns to educate their policyholders on the dangers of second-hand smoke, and most carrier offer premium discounts to members who stop smoking. "It is important for policymakers, who must contemplate public smoking restrictions, to understand both how many people suffer ailments due to secondhand smoke as well as the costs involved," Uccello said. Uccello said actual costs could be even higher, because they do not include costs from other diseases and conditions that the Surgeon General identifies as being caused by secondhand smoke, such as low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome. In addition, the Surgeon General finds evidence to suggest, but not prove, that secondhand smoke causes other conditions, such as asthma and an increased risk for chronic pulmonary disease. An estimated 50,000 people die annually due to illnesses caused by exposure to second-hand smoke. Sources: PRNewswire, American Academy of Actuaries  

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