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Task Force Says Smoke-Free Policies and Higher Tobacco Product Price Each Reduce Tobacco Use

A blue sign with white lettering reads Tobbacco Free Campus.

The Community Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force) found strong scientific evidence that both smoke-free policies and increased tobacco product price can cut tobacco use and are beneficial in other ways. Those interested in reducing tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure may want to consider the Task Force's recommendations summarized below. Follow the hyperlinks for exact Task Force wording and more detail:

  • The Community Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force) recommends smoke-free policies to reduce secondhand smoke exposure and tobacco use on the basis of strong evidence of effectiveness. Evidence is considered strong based on results from studies that showed effectiveness of smoke free policies in increasing the number of tobacco users who quit, and in reducing the following:
    • Secondhand smoke exposure
    • Prevalence of tobacco use
    • Initiation of tobacco use among young people
    • Tobacco-related illness and death
  • In addition, the Task Force found economic evidence showing that smoke-free policies can greatly reduce health care costs. The evidence also shows that smoke-free policies do not have a negative economic impact on businesses, such as bars and restaurants.
  • The Community Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force) recommends interventions that increase the unit price of tobacco products based on strong evidence of effectiveness in reducing tobacco use. Evidence is considered strong based on findings from studies showing that increasing the price of tobacco products increases the number of tobacco users who quit, and reduces the following:
    • Total amount of tobacco consumed
    • Prevalence of tobacco use
    • Initiation of tobacco use among young people
    • Tobacco-related illness and death
  • Evidence shows that increasing the price of tobacco products can reduce tobacco-related health gaps, or disparities, among people in different income groups and may reduce disparities among different race and ethnic groups. Economic evidence also shows that raising the unit price of tobacco products greatly reduces health care costs and can decrease productivity losses.

The Task Force bases its recommendations on systematic reviews of scientific studies. Under Task Force direction, scientists and experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conduct the reviews in collaboration with a wide range of government, academic, policy, and practice-based partners. Peer-reviewed articles of these systematic reviews are currently being prepared. You can find summaries and supporting materials at www.thecommunityguide.org.

What are "Smoke-Free Policies" and "Increasing Unit Price"?

  • Smoke-free policies are public-sector regulations and private-sector rules that prohibit smoking in indoor spaces and designated public areas. State and local ordinances establish smoke-free standards for all, or for designated, indoor workplaces, indoor spaces, and outdoor public places. Private-sector smoke-free policies may ban all tobacco use on private property or restrict smoking to designated outdoor locations.
  • Interventions to increase the unit price for tobacco products include public policies at the federal, state, or local level that increase the purchase price per unit of sale. The most widely used policy approach is legislation to increase the excise tax on tobacco products, though legislative actions and regulatory decisions may also be used to levy fees on tobacco products at the point of sale. Other policies that might influence tobacco product prices were not considered in this review.

Why are these Task Force recommendations important?

  • Tobacco use is the largest preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States. Each year, more than 480,000 people die prematurely from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, and another 8.6 million live with a serious illness caused by smoking (CDC, 2014).
  • Smokeless tobacco, cigars, and pipes also have deadly consequences, including lung, larynx, esophageal, and oral cancers (CDC, 2004, CDC, 2006; National Cancer Institute, 1998).
  • Secondhand smoke exposure causes serious disease and death, including heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer in nonsmoking adults and sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, ear problems, and more frequent and severe asthma attacks in children (CDC, 2006). An estimated 88 million nonsmoking Americans, including 54% of children aged 3–11 years, are exposed to secondhand smoke (CDC, 2010).
  • Coupled with the enormous health toll is the significant economic burden of tobacco use—at least $133 billion a year in direct medical costs for adults and more than $156 billion a year from lost productivity (CDC, 2009).

What are the Task Force and Community Guide?

  • The Community Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force) is an independent, nonfederal, unpaid panel of public health and prevention experts. The Task Force works to improve the health of all Americans by providing evidence-based recommendations about community preventive programs, services, and policies to improve health. Task Force members represent a broad range of research, practice, and policy expertise in community prevention services, public health, health promotion, and disease prevention.
  • The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide) is a website that is a collection of all the evidence-based findings and recommendations of the Community Preventive Services Task Force.

References

CDC. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General External Web Site Icon. Atlanta (GA): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coordinating Center for Health Promotion, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2014.

CDC. The Health Consequences of Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General External Web Site Icon. Atlanta (GA): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2004.

CDC. The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General External Web Site Icon. Atlanta (GA): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coordinating Center for Health Promotion, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2006.

CDC. State-specific smoking-attributable mortality and years of potential life lost -- United States, 2000--2004 External Web Site Icon. MMWR 2009;58(2):29-33.

CDC. Vital Signs: nonsmokers' exposure to secondhand smoke -- United States, 1999—2008 External Web Site Icon. MMWR 2010;59(35):1141-6.

National Cancer Institute. Cigars: Health Effects and Trends External Web Site Icon Adobe PDF File [PDF - 2.93 MB]. Smoking and Tobacco Control Monograph No. 9. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute; 1998.

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