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N C Med J. 2012 Nov-Dec;73(6):439-47.

Valuation of tobacco control policies by the public in North Carolina: comparing perceived benefit with projected cost of implementation.

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Department of Dental Ecology, School of Dentistry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Koury Oral Health Sciences Building, CB# 7450, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7450, USA.



After 40 years of continuous decline, smoking rates in the United States have stabilized signaling a challenge for tobacco control. Renewed decline may be guided by public opinion where support for tobacco control is strong. This study sought the public's preferences about tobacco control strategies.


This contingent valuation study investigated whether the public's valuations of 2 tobacco control policies outweighed their implementation costs. In a hypothetical referendum, a representative sample of North Carolinians aged 45-64 years (n = 644) was asked to indicate whether they would prefer a policy that would halve the youth smoking rate or one that would reduce smoking-related deaths by 10%, and to indicate how much additional tax they would be willing to pay to implement their preferred policy. This willingness-to-pay value formed the perceived "benefit" component in a cost-benefit analysis. Costs to halve youth smoking were calculated from evidence about the resources required to increase the state tobacco excise tax. Costs to reduce tobacco-related deaths were based on evidence about the resources required for a counseling quitline offering free nicotine replacement therapy.


The majority (85%) of respondents voted to halve the youth smoking rate. The mean maximum amount per person that voters were willing to pay in 1 year to do that was $14.90 (95% CI, $10.10-$19.60), and the maximum amount per person they were willing to pay in 1 year to reduce smoking-related deaths was $13.70 (95% CI, $2.10-$25.40). When aggregated to the North Carolina population aged 45-64 years (N = 2,400,144), the perceived benefit of halving youth smoking was $35.8 million. Implementation of a program to achieve this outcome would cost $109.8 million. Aggregating to the same population, the perceived benefit of a 10% reduction in tobacco-related deaths was $32.9 million, an amount that exceeds the $12.8 million estimated cost of achieving the outcome.


A counseling quitline with free nicotine replacement therapy would achieve a positive net benefit.

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