Californians Benefit From New Medi-Cal Smoking Cessation Benefits

Quitting Smoking Is Possible

(December 29, 2011)

The American Lung Association in California applauds the latest changes in Medi-Cal benefits to help more people throughout the state quit smoking. Enhanced benefits, including increased access to FDA approved prescription and non-prescription smoking cessation medicines and broader access to counseling sessions, means millions more Californians may increase their chances of living a smoke-free life this year.


With this change, the American Lung Association in California is committed to provide Medi-Cal beneficiaries with resources and information to help support quit attempts and communicate the new Medi-Cal benefits to the smoking population. These new benefits include:

  • Up to 12 weeks of non-nicotine prescription cessation medications;
  • Up to 14 weeks of non-prescription medications per course of therapy;
  • Those on cessation medications may receive two courses of therapy every 12 months; a six month break between courses is no longer required.
While behavioral modification support is still required for patients obtaining cessation aids, pharmacists no longer need  verification of participation (i.e., with a certificate or letter). 

“The American Lung Association in California whole-heartedly supports the latest updates to Medi-Cal designed to help more Californians make the healthy lifestyle choice to quit smoking,” said Jane Warner, American Lung Association in California President and CEO. “New access to cessation medications and counseling programs may open the door to a much brighter future for former smokers and their families.”


Smoking cessation medicines together with the use of counseling increases a smoker’s chances of successfully quitting1. The benefits of quitting are immediate and substantial.2 In as little as 24 hours, pulse and heart rates may lower2 and within two to 12 weeks circulation may improve and lung function may increase.2 After 10 years, the quitter’s chance of dying from lung cancer may be half that of a person who is still smoking.2


Each year, nearly 40,000 Californians die from smoking-related illnesses, 3 and another four thousand people who don’t smoke lose their lives due to the effects of secondhand smoke.4 If the human toll weren’t enough, caring for those who smoke costs California more than $9 billion per year.5 And, though many people now clearly understand the devastating effects of smoking, 3.8 million Californians still smoke and more than 36,000 children become daily smokers every year.6


The American Lung Association in California encourages all those with questions about quitting smoking to call its Lung Helpline at 1-800-LUNG-USA           
1-800-586-4872). The Lung Helpline is staffed by medical professionals prepared to answer all questions on lung disease and its causes.

Funding for this communication project was provided by Pfizer Inc.

About the American Lung Association: Now in its second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is “Fighting for Air” through research, education and advocacy. For more information, please visit 





1.  Fiore MC, Jaén CR, Baker TB, et al. Clinical Practice Guideline: Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: 2008 Update. Rockville, MD: US Dept of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service; 2008.

2.  American Cancer Society. Guide to Quitting Smoking. Last accessed on April 22, 2011.

3.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tobacco Control State Highlights, 2010. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2010.

4.  Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The Toll of Tobacco in the United States. Accessed April 22, 2011.

5.  Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. State tobacco-related costs and revenues. Accessed April 22, 2011.

6.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System 2010. California Department of Public Health. California Student Tobacco Survey 2010.