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New CDC Study Underscores Need for Legislation to Provide Coverage for Smoking Cessation Services

Statement by William V. Corr Executive Vice President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
July 25, 2002

Washington, DC — A new study released today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention underscores the need for Congress to pass pending legislation to provide coverage for smoking cessation services and therapies under Medicare, Medicaid, and other government health care programs. The study indicates that the high cost of and lack of access to cessation treatment is one of the primary obstacles to reducing smoking in the United States. Based on the 2000 National Health Interview Survey, the study finds that, while smoking rates among adults have declined much too slowly from 25 percent in 1993 to 23.3 percent in 2000, 70 percent of adult smokers said they want to quit. However, only 4.7 percent of those who had quit in the past year were able to maintain abstinence from smoking for three to twelve months. Clearly, improved access to smoking cessation services is one of the keys to accelerating the decline in adult smoking rates, along with adequate state funding of comprehensive prevention programs, increased cigarette taxes, clean indoor air measures, and enactment of legislation granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco products.

Today's study adds to the evidence that the high cost of smoking cessation treatments and the lack of health insurance coverage for them are among the biggest obstacles for smokers seeking to quit. It finds that nearly half the smokers above the poverty line had quit, while barely a third of smokers below the poverty line had done so.

According to a separate CDC study released last year, most states are not providing Medicaid coverage for the full range of smoking cessation services and therapies recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service in its clinical practice guidelines. That study found that 17 states provided no coverage for such treatment and only one state, Oregon, provided coverage for the full range of recommended counseling and drug therapies. Congress can vastly improve access to cessation services by passing pending legislation to provide access to safe and effective smoking cessation treatments through Medicaid, Medicare and the state-based maternal and child health programs. Legislation to do so has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sens. Richard Durbin (D-IL), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Bob Graham (D-FL) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and in the House by Reps. Mary Bono (R-CA) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) (S. 622 and H.R. 3676).

Smoking is America's leading preventable cause of death, killing more than 400,000 Americans every year. Reducing the incidence of tobacco-related disease will ultimately save millions of lives and mean huge cost savings in the amounts that Medicaid spends to treat tobacco-caused illness. The CDC study clearly shows that most smokers want to quit, and Congress should take action to give them all the help they need.