Jul. 24 2003
Washington, D.C. — Our public health organizations endorse legislation introduced today by U.S. Reps. Steven LaTourette (R-OH), Todd Platts (R-PA) and Marty Meehan (D-MA) to provide a refundable tax credit for the cost of tobacco cessation medication and counseling. This legislation will save lives, improve health and reduce tobacco-caused health care costs by helping smokers quit.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in our nation, killing more than 400,000 Americans and costing our nation more than $75 billion in health care costs every year. While we have made important progress in recent years in reducing youth smoking, we must also do a better job of helping adult smokers to quit in order to reduce the terrible toll that tobacco use takes in health, lives and money. According to a study released last year by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 70 percent of adult smokers want to quit, and half of these smokers will make a quit attempt this year, but less than five percent of those who try to quit will actually succeed in achieving long-term abstinence. While numerous effective tobacco cessation therapies exist, many tobacco users are unable to obtain or afford such treatments. This legislation is an important step toward reducing these obstacles and helping the millions of people who want to quit using tobacco products.
The cost of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved smoking cessation products including gum, patch, or lozenges, is not covered by Medicare and is rarely covered by private insurance. Medicaid programs in fifteen states do not cover nicotine replacement therapies and many of the remaining states do not cover all nicotine replacement therapies. Costs range from $200-$500 ($300 average) for a recommended course of treatment (8-12 weeks depending on the product and the patient).
In addition to cessation drugs approved by FDA to help people quit smoking, there are behavioral interventions, such as individual, group or telephone counseling, that are proven effective at helping people quit tobacco. In combination (drugs and counseling), these two approaches can significantly increase an individuals chances of breaking their addiction to tobacco.
Because the LaTourette-Platts-Meehan legislation provides a tax credit that is refundable, it will also have an impact on smokers of low socioeconomic status who tend to be disproportionately impacted by the tobacco use epidemic and who are underserved by the health care system in general, and smoking cessation programs in particular. They are less likely to have health insurance; less able to afford over-the-counter smoking cessation products; and often live in areas where cessation products and programs are less readily available. Refundable tax credits reimburse the eligible cessation expenses for tobacco users even if they have no tax liability.
Providing a refundable tax credit for smoking cessation products and services is a smart investment that will save lives and saves money.