New Report Reveals that NY Needs to Become More Quit Friendly for Smokers

Lung Association's Helping Smokers Quit Report Analyzes Tobacco Cessation Coverage Nationwide

(December 7, 2011)

According to a new report issued today by the American Lung Association most states, including New York, are falling far short of providing the help that millions need to quit smoking. The report, "Helping Smokers Quit: Tobacco Cessation Coverage 2011, calls on state and federal policymakers to make quit-smoking services an urgent priority to help citizens live longer and more productive lives. The report comes just a week after a report authored by the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids ranked New York 20th among states for the level of funding it commits to helping smokers quit.

"The findings of this report are troubling because smoking is the leading cause of preventable death," said Irwin Berlin, M.D. board chair of the American Lung Association in New York. "We're simply not doing enough to help smokers quit either here in New York or elsewhere in the country. That needs to change if we are going to save lives."

For the first time since launching the annual report in 2008, the Lung Association identifies the five most quit-friendly and the five least quit-friendly states based on the coverage of quit smoking programs and treatments available in each state. The five most quit-friendly states are Maine, North Dakota, Delaware, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. The five least quit-friendly states are Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, Maryland, and New Jersey. New York falls in the middle of the pack tying for 16th along with Massachusetts, Indiana and New Hampshire.

"The federal government and some states have made important progress in helping smokers quit and we've made some progress here in New York but it just isn't enough," said Dr. Berlin. "New York has the highest cigarette tax in the nation, we ought to be doing the most to help smokers quit."

Despite greater public understanding about the health risks of smoking, nationwide 443,000 people still die each year from tobacco-related illnesses and secondhand smoke exposure. In New York State, smoking kiils more than 25,000 people each year and 2,500 deaths are attributable to secondhand smoke. Quitting smoking is difficult, and most smokers need help to quit for good.

The Lung Association urges every state to provide all Medicaid recipients and state employees with comprehensive, easily accessible tobacco cessation medications and counseling. A comprehensive benefit includes all seven medications and three types of counseling recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service for helping smokers quit.

"By not providing all smokers help to quit, New York is not only missing out on an opportunity to help residents live longer, happier, more productive lives, we're missing an opportunity to save significant dollars that are now being spent to treat smoking-related illness," said Dr. Berlin. "While we've made progress and are proud that we're now providing counseling to all Medicaid recipients, our progress can't stop here. We simply cannot afford the economic and health consequences of failing to make it a priority to help smokers quit."

"Helping Smokers Quit: Tobacco Cessation Coverage 2011" is available at www.Lung.org.