BACKGROUND: Smoking cessation has major immediate and long-term health benefits. However, ex-smokers' total lifetime health costs and continuing smokers' costs remain uncompared, and hence the economic savings of smoking cessation to society have not been determined. METHODS: The economic effects of smoking cessation in a lifetime perspective have been examined by comparing the health costs of continuing smokers and ex-smokers by quantity of daily tobacco consumption, age, gender and disease group, while taking differences in life expectancy and the reductions in relative risks after cessation into account. RESULTS: The total lifetime health cost savings of smoking cessation are highest at the younger ages. Although the economic savings vary with age at quitting, gender and quantity of daily tobacco consumption, all ex-smoking men and women who quit smoking at the age of 35 to 55 years generate sizeable total lifetime cost savings. At older ages, the total lifetime health cost savings of smoking cessation are of little economic consequence to the society. The total, direct and productivity lifetime cost savings of smoking cessation in moderate smokers who quit smoking at the age of 35 years are 24,800 euros, 7600 euros, and 17,200 euros in men, and 34,100 euros, 12,200 euros, and 21,800 euros in women, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: Lifetime health cost savings of smoking cessation to society are substantial at younger ages, in terms of both direct and productivity costs.
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