Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and in South Carolina. To address this enormous toll, the American Lung Association in South Carolina calls for the following three actions to be taken by our elected officials:
- Increase the price of tobacco products to reduce tobacco use among youth and adults;
- Increase the number of comprehensive local smokefree air laws; and
- Increase funding for the state's tobacco prevention program.
South Carolina took a major step forward in reducing tobacco use with the increase in tobacco cessation coverage for Medicaid beneficiaries. As of July 1, 2017, the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (SC DHHS) enhanced tobacco cessation coverage for full-benefit Medicaid beneficiaries to align with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Lung Association. SC DHHS and the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) worked together to craft a plan to benefit both fee-for-service and managed care Medicaid benefits.
The new policy provides tobacco cessation medications without prior authorization or co-payment; provides one-on-one telephone and web-based counseling to Medicaid beneficiaries without charge through the SC Tobacco Quitline; strongly encourages Medicaid prescribers and pharmacists to refer patients to the Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW; and covers tobacco cessation counseling in individual and group settings when billed with the allowable CPT codes.The plan has truly made South Carolina a leader in this arena.
The American Lung Association in South Carolina and partners in the South Carolina Tobacco-Free Collaborative continue to support passage of smokefree air ordinances at the local level. The state has 62 local comprehensive smokefree ordinances covering about 40 percent of the state's population. State funding for DHEC's Tobacco Prevention and Control programs remained at $5 million in fiscal year 2018. The program receives all of its state funding from cigarette tax revenues.
The American Lung Association joined many organizations under the umbrella of the South Carolina Tobacco-Free Collaborative to urge consideration of a significant increase in the state's 57-cent cigarette tax with comparable increases for other tobacco products. Price increases from the 2010 tax increase led to appreciable reductions in youth smoking in South Carolina. The 2013 South Carolina Youth Tobacco Survey found that between 2011 and 2013, cigarette use among high school students fell from 23.7 percent to 15.4 percent.
The American Lung Association will continue to advocate for comprehensive smokefree air ordinances, improvements in quit smoking benefits for workers, increased tobacco taxes and increasing the $5 million-dollar allocation in state tobacco prevention funding.