Sep. 10 2002
Washington, DC — A new study on over-the-counter smoking cessation products published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) underscores the need to better educate smokers about the proper use of these products and to improve access to effective smoking cessation treatment, including both medication and counseling. The study found that many smokers are not using over-the-counter products, such as nicotine patches and gums, as intended and are not receiving the counseling support they need to be successful in their attempts to quit. Smokers' median length of use of these products was only 14 days, while their labels call for a minimum use of 42 days, and only about 20 percent of users also received one-on-one or group behavioral counseling. In addition, many smokers were not using cessation therapies effective for their level of smoking.
While quitting smoking is a difficult process that usually requires multiple attempts, the U.S. Public Health Service has found that smokers' chances of success are much greater if they receive both drug treatment and counseling services. This study indicates that health care providers must do a better job of informing smokers about both the drug and counseling treatments they need and ensuring that they follow through in properly utilizing both. It also underscores the need for policy makers to make smoking cessation therapies more accessible and affordable by providing coverage for them under government health insurance programs. Congress should pass pending legislation to provide such coverage under Medicare, Medicaid and the state-based maternal and child health programs. Legislation to do so has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sens. Richard Durbin (D-IL), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Bob Graham (D-FL) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and in the House by Reps. Mary Bono (R-CA) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) (S. 622 and H.R. 3676). Passage of such legislation would be an important step toward ensuring that smokers have access to the smoking cessation therapies they need and can afford to use them as intended.