Smoking cessation treatments work

by Lesley Politi on May 7, 2009

This would be a great addition to health insurance benefits, but at 45 cents a day it could increase a premium $167.40 a year. Which a lot of people would not be happy about.

By ELLEN R. GRITZ, PH.D.
Texas in 2007, 19.4 percent of adults over the age of 18 and 21 percent of teenagers smoked cigarettes. That’s about one out of every five Texans who are put at risk of life-threatening diseases — including at least 15 types of cancer, heart disease, stroke and chronic lung disease, as well as many other serious health problems. We all know that no one wants to suffer from such terrible diseases.

When kids start to smoke, they fully believe that they can stop at any time. They will only be smoking for fun, they think, and for a very short time. Unfortunately, that rarely turns out to be true.

The cigarette is a powerful drug-delivery device, every bit as efficient as the illegal drugs we are constantly trying to eliminate from our youth and adult populations. Smoking is an addiction, powered by the potent drug nicotine, which triggers the brain to experience pleasure and changes the brain’s structure and functioning. It doesn’t take much to become addicted to tobacco; some studies find that just a few cigarettes will do it.

Once people start to smoke, it becomes increasingly hard to stop. Almost 50 percent of youth who smoke try to quit each year. Almost 80 percent of adults say they want to quit and more than 40 percent try to quit each year, but only about 5 percent who try to quit on their own succeed for even six to 12 months. People try to quit, start again, and then try once more. We call that a chronic relapsing medical condition — not just a bad habit — and it costs our society dearly in terms of lost health and economic burden, to the tune of more than $167 billion each year.

With grim statistics like these, there is something very important we can accomplish that will save people’s lives and Texas dollars. We can let our fellow Texans know that smoking cessation treatments do work and we can make it much easier for smokers to get effective treatment to help them quit.

In 2008, the U.S. Public Health Service published an updated guideline on treating nicotine dependence. The guideline is a compendium of data evaluating the entire range of smoking cessation treatments, citing evidence of the effectiveness of various individual and combined treatments. The guideline was authored by a distinguished task force of scientists, doctors and clinical researchers, and utilized scientific methodology as well as expert clinical judgment.

The findings were that the most effective treatment for smoking cessation combines behavioral counseling with pharmacotherapy (five forms of nicotine replacement and two non-nicotine medications, vareniclene and bupropion). Pharmacotherapy has been shown to double or even triple rates of successful long-term quitting and is recommended for all cigarette smokers except those with specific medical conditions.

Research also demonstrates that the health care system is an important factor in smoking cessation treatment. When health insurance benefits cover treatment, people are more likely to enter treatment and the numbers of quitters rise. When insurance coverage is not available, smokers often don’t have the money to get real help.

The irony is that smoking cessation is one of the most cost-effective health care benefits available. It is really inexpensive — estimated to cost only 45 cents per person per month when averaged across all insurance enrollees. And treatment is estimated to save Texas more than $3,800 a year in direct health care and productivity costs for every smoker who quits.

In an era when preserving human and financial capital is essential, let’s move in Texas to help defeat tobacco addiction. Let’s improve the quantity and quality of the lives of our citizens by making effective smoking cessation treatments more available to all through health insurance coverage.

Source: www.chron.com

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