Illinois Governor’s Decision to… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Illinois Governor’s Decision to Shutter State’s Tobacco Quitline Will Cost Lives and Money

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
April 15, 2015

The fact that Gov. Bruce Rauner today has cut off funds to the Illinois Tobacco Quitline – in the middle of a national ad campaign encouraging smokers to call tobacco quitlines – is shortsighted, misinformed and tragic. In the name of cost cutting it will not only cost lives, it will actually cost the state money

There simply is no valid reason for abolishing a program that saves lives and saves the state millions of dollars in health care costs. The Quitline is a vital and cost-effective resource in the fight to help smokers quit and reduce tobacco's terrible toll on Illinois.

The timing of the governor's action couldn't be worse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just launched the latest round of its 'Tips from Former Smokers' advertising campaign, which encourages smokers to call their states' quitlines. The Tips ads have an immediate and strong impact on viewers. Just in the first 10 days since the most recent ads started running on March 30, Illinois has seen a 240 percent increase in calls to the Quitline. In 2014, more than 96,000 smokers called asking for help to quit their addiction.

Why would the governor want to shutter such an important and effective program? Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 480,000 people and costing $170 billion in health care bills every year. In Illinois alone, 18,000 people die from smoking every year and $5.5 billion annually goes to pay smoking-related health care costs, including $1.9 billion from the state Medicaid program.

But starting today, smokers in Illinois who call the Quitline will find no one on the other end to help them. Thousands of Illinois smokers highly motivated to quit smoking need the Quitline to help them with their life-saving decision.

If Gov. Rauner had made this announcement two weeks ago, we would have thought it was an April Fool's Joke – and a very poor one. The fact that the announcement is real and the consequences so serious make the governor's decision disastrous and dangerous on so many levels.

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The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids joined 52 other organizations in sending a letter to Gov. Rauner yesterday calling on him to restore funding for the Quitline.