Tobacco-Free Kids Applauds Senator… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Tobacco-Free Kids Applauds Senator Harkin for Making Tobacco Prevention a Priority in Wellness Initiative

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
January 22, 2013

Washington, D.C. (January 22, 2013) – The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids applauds Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) for continuing his strong leadership in the fight to reduce tobacco use and improve our nation's health by introducing comprehensive wellness legislation today. This legislation, the Healthy Lifestyles and Prevention America (HeLP America) Act, includes several important initiatives to reduce tobacco use, the nation's number one cause of preventable death. Among other things, this legislation would expand Medicaid coverage for treatments to help smokers quit and prevent kids from using tobacco by increasing the price of tobacco products.

Senator Harkin is a longtime champion in the fight against tobacco use and has made this battle a priority as chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP). He recognizes that preventing chronic diseases – including the cancers, heart disease, lung diseases and other deadly diseases caused by tobacco use – must be a national priority in order to improve health and reduce health care costs in the United States.

The chronic diseases and unhealthy behaviors Senator Harkin's bill addresses impose huge costs on our health care system and government budgets. Tobacco use alone costs $96 billion a year in health care bills. Senator Harkin's commitment to preventing disease, not just treating disease, is critical to reining in America's health care costs.

The value of investing in prevention has been demonstrated by several recent studies that found tobacco prevention and cessation programs save far more money than they cost by reducing tobacco-related health care expenditures.

For example, Washington State's tobacco prevention and cessation program saved more than $5 for every $1 spent by reducing hospitalizations for heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease and cancer caused by tobacco use, according to a study in the American Journal of Public Health. Massachusetts saved more than $3 for every $1 it spent helping beneficiaries enrolled in Medicaid to quit smoking, according to a George Washington University study. The study tracked hospital admissions for cardiovascular-related incidents, which fell dramatically among Medicaid patients who had used the tobacco cessation benefits.

As Senator Harkin recognizes, effective prevention will mean fewer premature deaths, less disease and more cost-effective health care spending.