Buffalo News (Letter to the editor): Smoking-cessation coverage will save lives and money

(October 13, 2010)

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Updated: October 13, 2010, 6:50 AM

While the Oct. 6 News editorial, “Rein in Medicaid spending,” makes several good points, I must take issue with the implication that expansion of smoking-cessation coverage is somehow fiscally irresponsible. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The American Lung Association recently released a study conducted by researchers at Penn State University that revealed states can actually save money by providing smoking-cessation coverage. The study found that here in New York, every dollar invested in smoking cessation could yield $1.34 in savings. By providing comprehensive smoking-cessation coverage, New York could save more than $58 million per year. That’s what is called a good investment.

The study further found that smoking costs New York State $20 billion annually in direct health care expenditures, workplace productivity losses and premature deaths. This needs to change.

Deficit or no deficit, New York is right to provide cessation-counseling coverage for pregnant women and children on Medicaid. The state’s present coverage of smoking cessation is woefully inadequate and earned us an “F” when we were graded on cessation benefits in the Lung Association’s 2009 State of Tobacco Control Report.

About 25,000 New Yorkers die each year as a result of tobacco. The state needs to expand smoking-cessation coverage to more New Yorkers so we can save lives and save money.

Scott T. Santarella
President and CEO, American Lung Association in New York