Is Your State “Quit-Friendly” for Smokers?

(December 7, 2011)

When it comes to helping smokers quit, not all states are created equal. According to a new report by the American Lung Association, Maine and North Dakota are the two most quit-friendly states for smokers who want to stop smoking. Georgia and Louisiana are the two least quit-friendly states. Does your state do enough to help smokers quit, and how does it compare to others? The Lung Association has the answer.

The American Lung Association’s annual “Helping Smokers Quit: Tobacco Cessation Coverage 2011” report documents the coverage of programs and treatments to help smokers quit available in each state and from the federal government.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, responsible for 443,000 deaths each year from tobacco-related illnesses and secondhand smoke exposure. Tobacco also places a crippling burden on the U.S. economy, totaling $193 billion annually. Providing comprehensive quit-smoking treatments is a win-win that both saves lives and curbs health care costs.

But quitting smoking is difficult, and most smokers need help to quit for good. That’s why it’s important that states and the federal government do all they can to make sure smokers have easy access to smoking cessation medications and counseling through health insurance plans and cessation telephone quitlines. While the federal government and some states have taken important steps in the right direction, significant gaps in access to coverage remain for millions of smokers.

States’ Efforts Mixed

According to the Lung Association’s report, the five most quit-friendly states are: Maine, North Dakota, Delaware, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. The least quit-friendly states, where policymakers are tragically missing a chance to improve citizens’ health and save lives, are Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, Maryland, and New Jersey. Not from one of these states? You can view the entire report here to see how your state rates.

Several states have made progress this year to improve access to tobacco cessation treatments, including Connecticut, Illinois, Missouri, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.  But many states are still missing key opportunities to provide people with the lifesaving assistance to quit smoking. Alabama and Georgia do not provide any help quitting to anyone on Medicaid other than to pregnant women as is federally-required. Louisiana and Maryland do not provide smoking cessation coverage to state employees.

Federal Government Steps Up

The report finds significant advances in the ongoing federal health care overhaul and other federal policies that will offer millions help in ending their deadly tobacco addiction. In 2011, the millions of federal employees and their families gained comprehensive coverage through their health insurance. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has another opportunity coming up to help even more smokers quit by including a specific and comprehensive tobacco cessation benefit in the Essential Health Benefit.

Unfortunately, federal efforts experienced a setback when a lawsuit from several tobacco companies blocked the new graphic warning labels for cigarette packs that will include the national 1 800 QUIT NOW telephone number for help. The graphic warning labels are required to appear on all cigarette packs and advertisements starting in the fall of 2012. On November 29, the U.S. Department of Justice appealed this ruling.

Take Action

Visit our “Helping Smokers Quit” report webpage to find tools and resources to help you, or someone you know quit smoking.

  • Find details about what resources are available in your state<./li>
  • Send an email to encourage policymakers to help more smokers quit
  • Send an e-card of encouragement to someone you know who wants to quit.
  • Download web banners and email signatures to help spread the word about helping smokers quit.

You can also join our Lung Action Network to receive e-alerts on how you can take action to support better quit-smoking coverage or smokefree laws federally, and in your state.

Interested in keeping up with all the American Lung Association does to fight for healthy air and healthy lungs? Sign up here to receive our monthly e-newsletter Fighting For Air Online, and other e-news.