A group supportive of Toledo's smoking ban claims exposure to secondhand smoke results in more than $27 million worth of annual health care in Toledo, $7 million of which is for treating children.
"We have people concerned about their economic well-being, mainly bar owners, but they forget we pay millions of dollars to help take care of the health and well-being of the population because" of exposure to secondhand smoke, said James Price, lead researcher and a University of Toledo public health professor.
Mr. Price and his colleagues also looked at seven other Ohio cities to estimate health costs due to secondhand smoke exposure, and Toledo had the highest per capita cost, $74.89, followed by Youngstown at $71.91 and Dayton at $71.16.
Bar owners were quick to dismiss the study, which was paid for by a grant from the Ohio Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Foundation.
"How can anyone come up with any figure on secondhand smoke exposure? It's bogus and a flat-out lie," said Bill Delaney, owner of Delaney's Lounge on Alexis Road and a supporter of a Nov. 2 ballot issue that, if approved, would weaken Toledo's smoking ban by allowing smoking in bars. "This is unbelievable; you can't come up with a figure like that."
Public health experts not associated with the study said there is a cost associated with secondhand smoke exposure, but they cautioned it's difficult to provide accurate numbers and there's little research to support such estimates.
"There is not an iota of doubt that there are significant costs
associated with it, but it's difficult to measure just how much," said Tom Glynn, director of cancer science and trends at the American Cancer Society's national office.
Mr. Price and his colleagues came up with a health cost estimate by first estimating the percentage of several diseases that could be due to secondhand smoke. For example, they estimated in 2000 - the latest year health data were available - there were 1,453 cases of a form of heart disease known as arteriosclerosis. This is the hardening of heart arteries, often related to the buildup of fatty blockages.
Next, Mr. Price and his colleagues estimated that about 17 percent of these cases could be because of secondhand smoke exposure, or 243 cases. He then multiplied that amount times the average hospital charge of $31,832 that results when treating a case of arteriosclerosis, and came up with a total of $7,735,295. He used the same methodology for other diseases.
The study was modeled after a similar study done in Indianapolis, which found about $17 million in annual health care costs there were due to secondhand smoke exposure. Terrell W. Zollinger, an Indiana public health professor, was lead author of that study.
He cautioned that his, and Toledo's, study are just estimates, but he still thinks it's a "conservative" best guess and the actual number is likely far higher. Outpatient costs, for example, are not counted, he said.
Weaknesses of the study include the fact that estimates are based on hospital charges, not hospital costs. Charges are often higher than actual costs, Mr. Zollinger said.
Along with the health-cost study released today, smoking ban supporters are also announcing the formation of a Web site established to help restaurants and bars market themselves as nonsmoking establishments. Tobacco Free Ohio, a statewide anti-smoking group, said the site, www.turningtablesohio.com, is the first of its kind in the nation.
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