Fresh AirCigarette smoking is the #1 cause of poor health, disease and death, costing the state of Alaska $536 million dollars in direct medical costs and lost productivity. This amount does not include the health effects from second and third-hand smoke exposure.

Alaska is one of only 16 states that don’t have a statewide smoke-free workplace law. Forty-two percent of the population is not protected from exposure to second-hand smoke in their workplaces.

The US smoking rate has declined by 50% in the last 50 years. However, targeted by the tobacco industry and exposed to second-hand smoke in low-wage jobs, the smoking rate for low-income people has not changed.

According to the CDC, 29% of Medicaid recipients are smokers and Medicaid recipients smoke at 2x the rate of people with private insurance. According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 60% of the money spent to treat tobacco related illnesses in the US was paid by government sources.

It is estimated by the Alaska Tobacco Prevention and Control Annual Report that adopting a smoke-free workplaces law would save Medicaid in Alaska a half a million dollars over 5 years.

The most effective way to reduce smoking rates and smoking related illness is to adopt smoke-free workplace policies. Studies show that after adopting smoke-free workplace policies, rates of hospitalizations for heart attack, stroke, asthma and lung disease were reduced by 15%-20% almost immediately (Circulation. 2012;126:2177-2183).

In addition, rates of preterm birth and babies born small decreased between 5%-11% a year after country-wide smoke-free laws were adopted in Ireland and Scotland (PLoS Med. 2012;9:e1001175). Three hundred thousand dollars were saved over three years in a small town in Mississippi for the treatment of heart attacks only ( While Germany saw a $6.9 million, (20.1%) decrease in heart attack related hospitalization costs during the first year after smoke-free law implementation.

Smokefree workplaces save money and lives.

If you are interested in promoting smokefree workplaces in your community, please contact Tobacco Prevention and Control at or the Alaska Lung Association at Or stop by the Quitline table at the Health Fairs.