Lung Association Response to Proposed Cut of Illinois Tobacco Quitline | American Lung Association

Lung Association Response to Proposed Cut of Illinois Tobacco Quitline

(April 10, 2015)

The American Lung Association in Illinois is extremely concerned about Governor Bruce Rauner’s proposal to suspend the grant that funds the Illinois Tobacco Quitline. The Illinois Tobacco Quitline provides crucial support for residents of Illinois that want to quit smoking, and has significantly improved the health of Illinois residents since it first started serving people in 2001. Helping smokers quit also saves the state millions of dollars in healthcare costs making this a truly penny wise and pound foolish decision by Governor Rauner.   

The Illinois Tobacco Quitline is funded by the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) dollars from a court settlement between 46 states and the major tobacco companies. The settlement dollars were to be used to reimburse the states to help cover the costs of caring for smokers. Offering tobacco cessation and prevention programs can help prevent and reduce these costs.

“The Illinois Tobacco Quitline is funded by tobacco Master Settlement Agreement dollars, not general fund or taxpayer dollars,” said Lew Bartfield, president and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest. “Funding the Quitline and other prevention and cessation programs was exactly how states were supposed to use MSA dollars. Let’s not let Illinois take a giant step back in the fight against tobacco use.”

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Every year in the U.S. close to half a million people die from tobacco-caused illness. The tobacco use epidemic can be stopped, with evidence-based, statewide tobacco control programs like the Illinois Quitline. 

The Illinois Tobacco Quitline answered over 90,000 calls in 2014, and 25 percent of these calls were from Medicaid recipients. Tobacco-related costs for those on Medicaid cost the state nearly $1 billion annually, and investing in the Illinois Tobacco Quitline would save Illinois millions in the long term, according to Bartfield. 

“The financial incentives for Illinois and other states to use money from the MSA to fight tobacco use are obvious,” Bartfield said. “Tobacco prevention programs are proven time and again to be highly effective. States that fund prevention and cessation programs at levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will see a significant decline in their smoking rates and dramatic cuts in their health care costs as a result.”

“Although 70 percent of U.S. smokers want to quit, and nearly 40 percent try to quit each year, most of these attempts are unaided and unsuccessful,” he said. “The Illinois Tobacco Quitline is an important and needed resource for the residents of Illinois.”

“The tobacco settlement money is intended to be spent to help Illinoisans quit smoking and to prevent children from starting to smoke,” Bartfield said. “We urge Governor Rauner to reconsider using these funds to help balance the budget. These are not taxpayer funds, and tobacco settlement money was intended to improve Illinois residents’ health with evidence-based and effective programs to quit smoking, like the Illinois Tobacco Quitline.”

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