Partnership for Prevention’s second ActionToQuit state summit was held on September 28 in Buffalo, New York. The event brought together organizational representatives, leaders, and advocates committed to saving lives and improving health through tobacco cessation. The summit was led by the New York State (NYS) Smokers Quitline, which received a grant from Partnership for Prevention to develop a state plan for tobacco cessation.
David Zauche, Senior Program Officer at Partnership for Prevention, provided the keynote address at the Buffalo summit. He stressed that tobacco cessation offers the highest value of all preventive services, receiving the top rating by the National Commission for Prevention Priorities for health impact and cost effectiveness. He noted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that tobacco cessation services be covered benefits for all employees, and he explained how federal health reform will positively impact cessation in the nation.
Currently there are 2.7 million smokers in New York State. Leaders from the state quitline and other agencies and organizations set an ambitious goal of reducing that number by one million by the year 2014. This would entail reducing the adult smoking prevalence from 18% to 12%. Fortunately, most cessation indicators are moving in the right direction in New York.
- There have been steady increases in the past decade in the percentage of smokers receiving assistance from their health care provider
- Similar increases have been seen in the percentage of smokers making a quit attempt
- The NYS Smokers Quitline is heavily promoted, providing free telephone and online cessation services and free medications to thousands of people each year
- Paid media campaigns reinforce the need to quit and cessation centers exist to provide additional help
However, there is one cessation area in need of strengthening -- health plan provided and employer supported comprehensive treatment benefits. Among the primary barriers smokers face when attempting to quit are a lack of insurance coverage, co-pays for these services, and annual limits on quit attempts. Thus, the Buffalo summit focused on the need for all employees in the state to have comprehensive coverage for cessation treatments when they choose to quit smoking.
According to a September 2010 American Lung Association study, tobacco use costs the United States economy $301 billion per year in health care expenditures, workplace productivity losses, and premature death. New York State’s share of this is about $20 billion annually. This remarkable toll will be a motivating factor for elected officials, insurers, health care systems, and other state leaders in the continuing dialog about health reform and cost containment. Tobacco cessation policies, especially those related to insurance coverage within health plans and workplaces, must be implemented to save lives and contribute to the bottom line.