Helping Smokers Quit: State Cessation Coverage

(November 10, 2009)

Quitting smoking is not easy, but there are many tools that can help smokers succeed.   A new American Lung Association report finds that many smokers don't have access to all the treatments that can help them quit – and policymakers can help fix this in the health care reform process.

Our new report, Helping Smokers Quit: State Cessation Coverage provides an overview of smoking cessation services and treatments offered in each state by public and private health care plans. It shows that states and the federal government are missing a big opportunity to help smokers quit and save lives and money by covering comprehensive tobacco cessation treatments.  Evidence shows that smokers are most successful in quitting when they get help using proven treatments.  But, smokers don't always know where to get the help they need.  This new report and the accompanying state-specific information will assist smokers to find cessation resources available to them.

Quitting smoking is the single best thing a smoker can do to improve his or her health.  Studies also show that smokers' lives are over 13 years shorter than non-smokers'. Helping people quit saves lives as well as thousands of dollars in health care expenditures. Recent studies estimate that when a smoker quits, the lifetime savings in tobacco-related health costs totals more than $20,000. One study in 2004 estimated that smoking costs each state's Medicaid programs on average over $600 million each year.

The American Lung Association urges that all smokers be provided with comprehensive coverage of smoking cessation treatments.  Public health care plans, like Medicaid and Medicare, should provide this coverage, as well as private plans.  Policymakers can require this coverage of insurance plans in the health care reform process, and NOW is the best time to do it.

Comprehensive coverage means providing easy access to the seven cessation medications and three forms of counseling recommended to treat nicotine addiction by the U. S. Public Health Service (PHS).  These medications include over-the-counter and prescription nicotine-replacement-therapies and two non-nicotine prescription drugs:  bupropion and varenicline. According to the PHS Guideline, counseling should include at least four individual, group or telephone therapy sessions lasting no less than 10 minutes each.

To see what is covered for smokers in your state, see the state-specific information here.  Click here to download the entire report.

The American Lung Association is committed to helping smokers quit.  Through our Freedom from Smoking® program and Quitter in You campaign, we offer several free and low cost options that help tens of thousands of people each year.  To learn more, click here

You can make a difference! To tell your Members of Congress to provide smoking cessation coverage in health care reform, click here.  To get involved in our work in other ways, click here. To make a donation to support our fight for healthy lungs and clean air click here.