Estimates of Smoking-Attributable Deaths at Ages 15-54, Motherless or Fatherless Youths, and Resulting Social Security Costs in the United States in 1994

Bruce N. Leistikow,  Daniel C. Martin,  Christina E. Milano

Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, University of California, Davis, California, 95616-8638

Preventive Medicine, 2000, 30 (5):353-360

Background. Deaths of parents often harm their children, taxpayers, and society, for decades. So we estimated the smoking-attributable (SA) counts and percentages (SA%) of U.S. 1994 deaths at child-rearing ages; youths (ages <18) left motherless or fatherless; and resulting Social Security Survivors Insurance taxes.

Design. U.S. 1994 age/sex/education-specific total and SA death counts were estimated using death certificate data and standard CDC SAMMEC methods (with added injury mortality), respectively. We separately summed (a) total and (b) SA age/sex/education-specific death counts times their average number of youths per adult (cumulative fertility, adjusted for infant mortality). We then multiplied the SA and total bereft youth counts by their average duration of Survivors Insurance, and calculated the SA cost of youth Survivors Insurance.

Results. In 1994, smoking caused an estimated 44,000 male and 19,000 female U.S. deaths at ages 15-54, leaving 31,000 fatherless and 12,000 motherless youths. On December 31, 1994, the SA prevalences [count (SA%)] of fatherless or motherless youths were an estimated 220,000 (17%) and 86,000 (16%), respectively. Resulting Survivors Insurance costs were about $1.4 (sensitivity range: $0.58-3.7) billion in 1994.

Conclusions. Smoking causes many U.S. deaths at ages 15-54, youth bereavements, and Survivors Insurance costs. Reductions in smoking may greatly reduce those deaths, bereavements, and taxpayer and societal costs. Copyright 2000 American Health Foundation and Academic Press.

Key Words:  smoking; child of impaired parents; middle age; mothers; fathers.

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School of Medicine
University of California, Davis

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