To The Editor:
New Jersey ranks 41st worst in the country for the lack of help it offers citizens to quit smoking according to the American Lung Association’s “Helping Smokers Quit:
Tobacco Cessation Coverage 2011” report that cites the five least quit-friendlystates in the nation.
> “It’s unfortunate the state of New Jersey has failed to help its smokers quit,” said Deb Brown, President & CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic. “It’s imperative New Jersey policymakers step up and provide accessto comprehensive, quit smoking treatments and services that will immensely savelives and money.”
> Helping Smokers Quit contains original data on coverage of tobacco cessation treatments in Medicaid and state employee health plans, as well as laws requiring this coverage in private insurance plans.
New Jersey is the fifth least quit-friendly state in the country according to the Lung Association, because too many smokers in New Jersey are not able to get the help they need to quit smoking. The New Jersey quitline is only funded at a rate of $0.35 per smoker for fiscal year 2012, which is a fraction of the national minimum standard of $10.53 that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends to reach an adequate number of smokers in every state. Some low-income Medicaid enrollees and state employees in New Jersey do have access to tobacco cessation treatments, but it is not guaranteed for all enrollees and state employees.
In New Jersey, the adult smoking rate is 15.8 percent, compared to the national rate of 20.6 percent. Annual healthcare costs directly caused by smoking in the state is $3.17 billion. The tobacco industry spends $226.3 million on marketing expenditures in New Jersey.
In addition to New Jersey, the other least quit-friendly states are Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama and Maryland. The report identifies the five most quit-friendly states for their more comprehensive approach to help smokers quit as Maine, North Dakota, Delaware, Oklahoma and Wyoming. These states, although they too have room for improvement, provide evidence that a comprehensive approach to smoking cessation is attainable. The report also summarizes past and future federal government actions in tobacco cessation policy, including provisions in the Affordable Care Act and Tobacco Control Act.
Currently an uneven patchwork of quit-smoking treatments and services are available around the country. The U.S. cannot afford the economic and health consequences of failing to make it a priority to help smokers quit.
Despite greater public understanding about the heath risks of smoking, 443,000 people die each year from tobacco-related illnesses and secondhand smoke exposure.
Smoking causes lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and many other illnesses.
“Smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.,” says Brown.
“Quitting smoking is difficult, and most smokers need help to quit for good.”
Studies show tobacco addiction usually requires multiple attempts before a user successfully quits.
There are several different ways that states can help smokers quit, and these programs and policies factor into the state ratings.
They include the extent of quit-smoking treatments provided for state workers and their families; the level of coverage for low-income people who are enrolled in Medicaid; whether a state requires private insurance companies to cover cessation treatments; and the adequacy of state funding for stop-smoking quitlines, which is critical to successfully helping smokers end their deadly addiction.
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.
The “Helping Smokers Quit: Tobacco Cessation coverage 2011” report is available at www.Lung.org.
American Lung Association
Camp Hill, Pa.