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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The number of smokers in 17 states where the federal government spent $128 million to discourage tobacco use dropped by 3 percentage points over the last eight years -- a half a point more than in states without the anti-smoking program.
The federal program was responsible for reducing the number of smokers in the tare states by about 104,000, according to a report by an AP science writer in The (Lakeland, Fla.) Ledger. The anti-smoking program trained local advocacy groups to lobby for passage of higher cigarette excise taxes and to promote regulations for smoke-free environments. The program also launched a PR effort countering an estimated $47 billion spent by the tobacco industry to marketing tobacco products during the study period and included efforts to curb underage access to tobacco.
The American Stop Smoking Intervention Study (ASSIST) would have cut the number of smokers by more than 278,700 smokers, if sued across the nation, estimated Frances A. Stillman, a researcher at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and first author of the a study appearing in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, which funded the program.
Researches used industry cigarette sales figures and tobacco use surveys to determine the impact of the ASSIST effort. Smoking decreased nationally by approximately 2.41 percentage points. It declined by 3.02 percentage points in the 17 states with the ASSIST program in action.
States included in the program were Colorado, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. The program spent approximately $1,200 per smoker who kicked the habit.
"[That?s] a real bargain," said Elizabeth A. Gilpin, a University of California, San Diego researched and co-author of the study. "Most smoking cessation programs will spend that for a few hours of a counselor?s time. When you think about what you save in health care costs, $1,200 is a real bargain."
Studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 44,000 deaths a year in the United States, according to the newspaper report.