Trying to scrounge up enough spending cash for the next luxury item or swanky night out is never a welcome task.

If you’re the United States' national health care system, though, it turns out there’s a pretty hefty chunk of spare change, $63 billion in fact, just waiting to be dug out from underneath the couch cushions — all you have to do is cut down smoking in every state by 10 percent. At least that’s the bold prediction made by a study published Tuesday in PLOS Medicine.

Funded by the National Cancer Institute, the paper analyzed health care spending per capita across all 50 states and the District of Columbia from 1992 to 2009, specifically examining the year-to-year relationship between changes in smoking behavior and changes in medical costs. From there, they estimated that a 10 percent drop in the number of people who smoke as well as in the number of packs each remaining smoker consumes would lead to a $63 billion reduction in spending the next year. These drops roughly equate to a 2.2 percent decline in the average smoking rate during the study period — 21.2 percent of Americans — and 37 fewer packs smoked in a year per smoker. The money is in 2012 dollars.

Adding more support to their main conclusion, they also found that states with more restrictive tobacco control programs, such as smoke-free laws in public spaces, and lower smoking rates had lower medical costs than those with higher smoking rates.

“Changes in health care expenditure appear quickly after changes in smoking behavior,“ the authors wrote. “State and national policies that reduce smoking should be part of short term health care cost containment.”

The study is one of many to look at the costs associated with smoking, as well as the possible savings that come with quitting. According to the authors, however, some of these studies are unable to account for the so-called “quitting sick” effect. While there are normally immediate health care-related financial benefits for someone who quits, these benefits might be overestimated if the person only chose to quit because they’ve already become chronically sick as a result of their habit and now require constant medical care.

By instead looking at a state’s health care spending and smoking prevalence over the long run rather than at a single point in time, the authors were able to consider in their calculations any excess health costs related to quitting while sick. They were also able to account for any health care savings related to a reduction of secondhand or thirdhand smoke in the environment.

Of course, no study is perfect. The model the authors used generously assumes that other variables related to health care spending will stay constant. In the real world, factors like an aging population, better medical technology, and changes to health care access may muck up or even improve the actual amount of savings that arise following less smoking. Regardless, coupled with previous research, it seems apparent that cutting smoking down is not only good for our bodies, but our wallets as well.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated $300 billion dollars are lost nationwide due to smoking every year, with nearly $170 billion from direct medical costs. And while the rate of smoking has steadily declined over the years, state funding for tobacco control programs is lagging, with only one state, North Carolina, spending the amount recommended by the agency. Only four states spend half the amount recommended.

In other words, there’s still ample room and opportunity for states to reach that 10 percent threshold and reap the benefits.

Source: Lightwood J, Glantz. Smoking Behavior and Healthcare Expenditure in the United States, 1992–2009: Panel Data Estimates. PLOS-Medicine. 2016.