Kentucky health experts, business community testify on the cost of smoking

Rising expenses concept of cigarettes and coins isolated on white

On Tuesday, a group of health and business leaders testified before the Interim Joint Committee on Local Government on the cost of smoking to the Commonwealth and proposed a path forward to help reduce tobacco related illness, health care expenses, and productivity loss for businesses.

Kentucky Chamber Manager of Public Affairs John Cox, Foundation for Healthy Kentucky Vice President of Public Affairs Allison Adams, House Health and Family Services Chair Kim Moser, and Senate Majority Caucus Chair Julie Raque Adams urged committee members to allow local governments more control over the sales and marketing of tobacco products.

Smoking-related illness costs Kentucky around $1.92 billion per year, and about $590 million is paid for by Medicaid. This means every household in the Commonwealth pays around $1,100 each year in extra federal and state taxes to cover the health care costs of Kentuckians who smoke.

Not only is Kentucky’s high rate of smoking costly to the state, it is costly to businesses. On average, employers pay $659 per year in health care costs for each employee who smokes. Additionally, employees who smoke are 33 percent more likely to miss work, miss on average of 2.7 more days per year, and often take unsanctioned breaks that result in lost work time.

“Currently, only 56 cities and counties across Kentucky have enacted smoke-free laws,” said Cox. “Allowing local governments more control over tobacco laws would provide opportunities for safer communities, healthier Kentuckians, cost-effective businesses.”

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Jacqueline Pitts
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