Sept. 11, 2001 was one of the darkest days in the history of America. Not only did it claim the lives of more than 2,000 people, but it also caused hundreds of thousands of former smokers to start smoking again.
A study recently published in the journal Contemporary Economic Policy showed that between 950,000 and 1.3 million American adults who used to smoke went back to smoking after the infamous 9/11 attacks. The figures represented a 2.3 percent increase in adult smokers across the country.
“This study provides the first unbiased estimate of the effect of stress on smoking, and the finding that there was such a big increase in smoking nationwide, seemingly due to one event, is extraordinary, and surprising,” study author Dr. Michael F. Pesko, an instructor in Weill Cornell Medical College’s Department of Public Health, said in a news release. “It sheds light on a hidden cost of terrorism.”
Dr. Pesko has long been interested in the relationship between stress and substance abuse. He said the study’s findings would help health care providers understand the real impact of terrorism on humans as well as on the economy. He estimated the cost to government due to 9/11-induced smoking at $530 million to $830 million.
The study also suggested ways on how future stress-inducing events can be prevented. Dr. Pesko said offering free nicotine replacement therapy soon after such events can be helpful in discouraging former smokers to turn to cigarettes again. Substance abuse screening during regular medical appointments following terrorist attacks can likewise be instrumental in keeping former smokers nicotine-free.