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Secondhand smoke cost nonsmokers over 323 bil. yen in medical bills in FY2014: research

Nonsmokers spent an estimated 323.1 billion yen extra on medical bills in fiscal 2014 for diseases such as lung cancer they developed due to being exposed to secondhand smoke, a health ministry study has shown.

A research team at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare analyzed cases of lung cancer, ischemic heart disease and stroke -- the three major diseases whose causal relationship with secondhand smoke is recognized as "sufficiently established" in a tobacco report published by a government review panel in fiscal 2016. The team estimated the figures based on the number of patients in their 40s and older, as well as the person's likelihood of developing illnesses by smoking habits, while taking secondhand smoke exposure at work and home into consideration.

As a result, the estimated number of those who would develop lung cancer due to secondhand smoke stood at around 11,400, and they would have to pay an extra 33.5 billion yen in medical bills. In addition, an estimated 101,400 people would develop ischemic heart disease and they would have to pay an additional 95.5 billion yen for treatment. Approximately 129,600 people would suffer a stroke, which would cost them 194.1 billion yen.

Moreover, an estimated 82.1 billion yen per year would be lost in productivity in cases where workers have to be hospitalized due to diseases caused by secondhand smoke.

Ataru Igarashi, a specially appointed associate professor at the University of Tokyo, who was involved in the research, said the study has shown heavy social losses caused by secondhand smoke, although the research narrowed the subjects to diseases with a clear causal relationship with tobacco.

"Measures regarding tobacco should be considered not only from an economic perspective but also in light of the major health effects it has on people," Igarashi commented.

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