A study published this week in the journal, BMC Public Health, suggests quitting smoking benefits households and local economies, as well as the health of the person quitting.

The study, by Deakin University’s Institute for Health Transformation (IHT) and Quit Victoria, compared the household expenditure of Australian adults who smoke tobacco products and those who have quit smoking, across five socioeconomic groups from most-advantaged to most-disadvantaged. The study tracked expenditure over seven years and is the first to investigate quantitative data of these groups over such a lengthy period.

People who smoked and were in the most disadvantaged group spent, on average, $4335 per annum on cigarettes. When compared to smokers, people in this group who quit, had greater spending on meals eaten out, education, motor vehicle fuel and general insurance.

People in the other four socioeconomic groups who quit, compared to people who smoked, also spent more on meals eaten out, education, motor vehicle fuel and general insurance. They also spent more on groceries, medicines and health practitioners, and less on alcohol.

Dr Anita Lal from Deakin Health Economics at IHT, the lead author of the study, said the results indicated the societal benefits of quitting smoking go beyond direct health benefits.

“The shift of expenditure from tobacco to eating out and more groceries suggests that local businesses, such as grocery stores, restaurants and cafes, benefit when people quit. When people who quit spend their money on goods and services, they are supporting Australian businesses instead of transnational tobacco companies.”

Dr Sarah White, director of Quit, said she hoped that health professionals would see the reduction in alcohol spending and the increase in health and medicine spending as joint benefits of quitting, and more actively encourage people to quit smoking.

“Measures to help people quit do far more than reduce the risk of ill-health in the future, they’re setting people up to enjoy a better quality of life here and now.”