100,000 Lives Could be Saved if… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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100,000 Lives Could be Saved if Health Insurance Covered Smoking Cessation

Statement by Matthew L. Myers President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
March 12, 2002

Washington, DC — A new study released today shows that if all public and private health insurance were to cover smoking cessation products and services for their customers, 100,000 fewer people would die from smoking-caused disease within the next 20 years. That is almost the entire population of Peoria, Illinois. Just adding a simple benefit to health insurance could save an entire city.

Currently, many private health insurance companies, the federal Medicare program and the federal-state Medicaid program, fail to provide adequate coverage for smoking cessation. Coverage of smoking cessation has been shown to reduce health care costs to insurance companies by increasing the numbers of smokers who succeed in quitting and reducing the incidence of smoking-caused disease.

Currently, there is legislation, S. 854 introduced by U.S. Sens. Richard Durbin (D-IL), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Bob Graham (D-FL) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), in the U.S. Senate to require state Medicaid programs to cover smoking cessation products and services and add counseling services to the Medicare program. The new Medicaid coverage is particularly important because a majority of pregnant smokers in the United States are on Medicaid, and helping these women quit will improve both their health and the health of their babies while reducing taxpayer costs under Medicaid.

This study should serve as a wake-up call to Members of Congress to quickly enact such legislation. The message is clear: this is not an esoteric debate, but a life or death decision for 100,000 Americans.

The study was conducted by David Levy, Ph.D., a senior scientist at the Pacific Institute for Research & Evaluation in suburban Washington, DC, and professor at the University of Baltimore and Karen Friend, Ph.D., a post-doctoral research fellow at Brown University. The study's estimates are based on a computer simulation model called SimSmoke, which takes into account several factors, including the effectiveness of smoking cessation treatment; impact of smoking cessation on health; current use of available treatments; and current coverage for cessation treatment. The model also factors cigarette prices, restrictions on public smoking, and the current death rates among smokers.