A report on smoking cessation released Jan. 23 by U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams concludes that comprehensive, barrier-free health coverage of tobacco cessation therapies and services is one of the most effective ways to continue to drive down the smoking rate and save lives. However, the report states that two-thirds of smokers who tried to quit in the last year did not use an evidence-based cessation service, and four out of nine adult smokers who saw a health professional did not receive advice to quit.
The 700-page report provides in-depth evidence regarding the role smoking cessation plays in reducing the risk of developing many negative health effects, including several cancers and notes that successfully quitting smoking can add up to a decade to a person’s life expectancy. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the U.S. and will account for upwards of 480,000 premature deaths this year. While the smoking rate continues to trend downward, an estimated 34.2 million adults still smoke cigarettes and more than 16 million Americans live with a smoking-related disease.
The report includes scientific evidence for interventions proven to increase smoking cessation at the individual, health system, and general population level. These include increasing access to, and knowledge of, FDA-approved cessation medications and counseling, regular and significant tax increases on tobacco products, the adoption of comprehensive smoke-free policies and fully funding tobacco control programs.
Two “endgame” strategies that could further bolster tobacco cessation were also mentioned in the report: reducing nicotine levels in cigarettes to minimally addictive levels and restricting flavored tobacco products, including menthol.
The following is a statement from Lisa Lacasse (pictured here), president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN):
“The Surgeon General report shows the vital role insurance coverage plays in reducing death and disease from tobacco use. Whether an individual is privately insured or enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid, we must ensure people who want to quit smoking have barrier-free access to comprehensive cessation therapies and services to aid them in that effort. The report also clearly illustrates that these evidence-based services are grossly underutilized. We must work to increase knowledge of these services among both health care providers and patients. Too many people who want to quit are unaware that FDA-approved cessation therapies and services are available to them.
“Surgeon General Adams also notes that coupling these FDA cessation strategies with population-based interventions like the adoption of comprehensive smoke-free laws, regular increases in the price of tobacco products and fully funding tobacco control programs will be the most effective way to continue to decrease the smoking rate in the United States. Given the comprehensive conclusions included in today’s report, ACS CAN’s advocacy work at the local, state and federal level will continue to call for the implementation of proven policies that will achieve the public health goals laid out by Surgeon General Adams today.”