Current and former smokers incur higher healthcare costs after having surgery than non-smokers, according to a new study.

"Smoking causes an estimated $17 billion in excess healthcare costs each year just because it is more expensive to take care of these folks in the first year after surgeries," Dr. David Warner told Reuters Health by email. He led the new study at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Warner said helping surgery patients quit smoking benefits not only their post-operation outcomes but also their long-term health.

"Clinicians who care for surgical patients have the opportunity and responsibility to help their patients quit smoking," he said.

For their study, Warner and his colleagues used records from adults who had inpatient surgery at Mayo Clinic hospitals in 2008 and 2009.

The researchers matched 678 current smokers with an equal number of "never smokers" based on their age, gender, type of surgery and insurance. They also matched 945 pairs of former smokers and never smokers.

Costs of the original surgeries and hospital stays were similar for everyone, according to findings published in JAMA Surgery.

But compared to never smokers, healthcare costs for current smokers were higher during the year following surgery - by about $400 per month. Likewise, treating former smokers cost about $273 more per month than treating never smokers.

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