New Report Reveals Most Quit-Friendly and Least Quit-Friendly States for Smokers

(December 7, 2011)

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

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. The economic costs in the U.S. due to tobacco total $193 billion annually. Providing comprehensive quit-smoking treatments is crucial in both saving lives and curbing health costs. Despite greater public understanding about the health risks of smoking, 443,000 people still die each year from tobacco-related illnesses and secondhand smoke exposure. Quitting smoking is difficult, and most smokers need help to quit for good.

Ensuring smokers have easy access to smoking cessation medications and counseling through health insurance plans and cessation telephone quitlines is critical to successfully helping smokers quit. The federal government and some states have taken important steps in this direction, but significant gaps in access to coverage persist for millions of smokers, according to the Lung Association’s “Helping Smokers Quit: Tobacco Cessation Coverage 2011” report. It calls on policymakers at all levels to make quit-smoking services an urgent priority.

The report identifies the five most quit-friendly states as Maine, North Dakota, Delaware, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. The report identifies the five least quit-friendly states, where policymakers are tragically missing a chance to improve citizens’ health and save lives, as Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, Maryland, and New Jersey.

“Progress in helping smokers quit brings real results: It saves lives and saves money,” said American Lung Association President and CEO Charles D. Connor.

The report documents significant advances in the ongoing federal health care overhaul and other federal policies that will offer millions help in ending their deadly tobacco addiction. It also recognizes states that are making progress in this life-and-death effort. However, there is still much work to be done, even among the most quit-friendly states, as millions of smokers need their states to remove barriers and bridge existing coverage gaps.

The report finds an uneven patchwork of quit-smoking treatments and services available around the country.

“The level and type of assistance available to smokers is inconsistent state-to-state, insurance plan-to-insurance plan, and smoker-to-smoker,” said Connor. “By not helping all smokers, too many people are missing out on longer, happier, more productive lives.”

A comprehensive approach is needed, including unrestricted access to the seven medications and three types of counseling recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service as proven effective to helping smokers quit.

Federal Government Steps Up

“In 2011, the millions of federal employees and their families gained comprehensive coverage through their health insurance,” added Connor. “Coming up there is an opportunity to help even more smokers quit. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will soon release the essential health benefits requirements for all state health care exchanges. It is vital that HHS include a specific and comprehensive tobacco cessation benefit so there is one standard benefit for all smokers who want to quit.”

In June 2011, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unveiled new graphic warning labels for cigarette packs that include the national 1-800-QUIT NOW number for help. The graphic warning labels are required to appear on all cigarette packs and advertisements starting in the fall of 2012, but are on hold pending the resolution of a lawsuit filed by some of the major tobacco companies. A U.S. District Court Judge initially sided with the tobacco companies, but on November 29, the Obama Administration appealed the lower court’s decision.

“The American Lung Association is urging the U.S. Department of Justice to appeal this ruling to help save lives,” continued Connor.

Several states have made progress this year to improve access to tobacco cessation treatments. Missouri, Connecticut, and Tennessee added coverage for all Medicaid recipients. South Dakota and Texas added coverage of two cessation medications and quit-smoking counseling options in 2011. Despite this progress, Texas is far from being a quit-friendly state. Illinois passed a law in 2011 requiring private insurance plans to cover quit-smoking treatments.

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. These states are missing a key opportunity to provide people with the lifesaving assistance to quit smoking.

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About the American Lung Association
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases.  For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: www.Lung.org.