The Obama Administration has launched a bold national strategy to combat tobacco use, the number one cause of preventable death in America. It calls for forceful action that will improve health, save lives and save health care costs for taxpayers and employers across the country.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the plan in November, 2010. It is the federal government’s first truly comprehensive initiative to reduce tobacco use since the 1964 Surgeon General's report first alerted Americans to the deadly effects of cigarette smoking.
If robustly funded and effectively implemented, the plan can reinvigorate the nation's battle against tobacco and move us closer to the goal of eliminating the death and disease caused by tobacco use.
The plan builds on decades of science and experience demonstrating what works to reduce tobacco use and its deadly consequences.
Key elements include:
Strengthening proven tobacco-control efforts in states and communities. These include strong smoke-free laws; higher tobacco taxes; tobacco prevention and cessation programs; and comprehensive services to help smokers quit, including toll-free quitlines.
A mass media campaign to prevent kids from smoking, encourage smokers to quit and better inform the public about the health consequences of tobacco use. Mass media campaigns are proven effective in reducing tobacco use, but state media campaigns have been cut substantially in recent years.
Using the power of the Department of Health and Human Services Department to set an example by requiring tobacco-free campuses at all its facilities and by expanding Medicare and Medicaid coverage to include comprehensive smoking-cessation treatment for all beneficiaries.
Enhanced research to support Food and Drug Administration regulation of tobacco products, monitor changes in tobacco industry practices and products, and improve treatments to help smokers quit.
The Administration and Congress must provide sufficient funding for these initiatives if they are to succeed. It is especially critical that funding be provided for the national media campaign to prevent children from smoking and help smokers quit. There is also a crucial need to expand services to help smokers quit — including telephone quitlines and insurance coverage for drug therapy and counseling — to meet the increased demand that is likely to follow a national media campaign.
The Administration's plan is timely, as recent surveys have shown that progress in reducing tobacco use has slowed and even stalled. While the United States has made significant progress, 20.6 percent of adults — more than 46 million altogether — and 19.5 percent of high school students still smoke.