Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Quitting Smoking Saves Everyone Money, Write your Politicans today

Helping people quit smoking has never been a popular issue. Individuals who have never smoked can’t understand how anyone would ever start and think a smoker should just put the cigarette down and walk away. Smokers scream about their right to smoke and are encouraged by the tobacco industry trying to maintain their profits. Former smokers say that if they can quit, anybody can quit and often forget their own struggle in becoming smoke free. Yet ask the approximately 19 million smokers that attempt to quit each year, and they will tell you, that help is what they desperately need, since only 4% to 7% are likely to be successful after a year according to the U.S. Public Health Service.
In the State of California, only 15% of the population still smokes, yet upwards of 50% of these smokers also have a mental illness or an alcohol or substance abuse problem as well. Smokers also tend to be among the poor and uneducated. If it was easy for the current smokers to quit, they would have done so already, yet this segment of the population is the disenfranchised that few will listen to and are the ones that society has a moral obligation to help. There are effective interventions and medications to help these smokers yet they can be expensive since most insurance companies do not cover addiction to nicotine as they do with other addictive substances.
Originally the Economic Stimulus package contained funds to help with smoking cessation but has been cut yet according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and leading cessation providers, this $75 million investment in tobacco cessation would:
§ Produce at least 1,500 new jobs for smoking quit line counselors
§ Help 100,000 smokers quit
§ Save $10,000 to $15,000 in long-term health care costs per smoker who quits
§ Produce total savings of $1 billion to $1.5 billion in long-term health care costs.
The diseases caused by smoking are some of the most expensive to treat. Heart disease, stroke, 30% of all cancers, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and peripheral artery disease which the US Public Health Service estimates the cost in direct medical expenses is $96 Billion per year and $97 Billion in lost productivity. They estimate that if all smokers covered by state Medicaid programs quit, the annual savings to Medicaid would be $9.7 Billion after 5 years.
As a former smoker, and cancer survivor I personally know how devastating the effects of smoking can be physically, mentally, emotionally and financially and since treatments for nicotine addiction are highly cost-effective, I think it is extremely important to support smoking cessation efforts by the following efforts:
§ Support tobacco cessation and prevention in either the current Stimulus package as a stand alone provision or in general funds to the CDC.
§ Support legislation that health insurance companies and Medicaid include tobacco cessation as a covered item.

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