Stop-smoking programs pay quick dividends

We've always known that smoking cessation programs pay their way, but the benefits were always thought to come slowly and over time.

Still, employers, insurers and government agencies have all pushed cessation as a way to eventually save money.

But a new study says there is only one thing wrong about this assumption: The savings are nearly immediate.

The study, conducted by George Washington University of the Massachusetts' Medicaid program, found that every dollar invested in smoking cessation counseling, drugs and treatment returned $3 of savings in the first 16 months.

That's an incredible rate of return, and suggests states should be doing even more to get Medicaid enrollees off tobacco.

Yet, unfortunately, in this era of tight state budgets, stop-smoking programs have become one of the targets for elimination.

Maine, like Massachusetts, has a robust smoking cessation benefit in Medicaid. It requires a $3 co-pay for three counseling sessions a year and for a variety of gums, patches and nasal sprays.

But there is a proposal to cut tobacco cessation products from Maine's Medicaid program in the supplemental budget, although other funding would remain in the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention budget.

The Massachusetts study would argue against eliminating any stop-smoking programs.

"The good news from a state budget perspective is that even if people stop smoking temporarily, there can be immediate savings," study author Leighton Ku told the website

The "study showed a rapid reduction in the number of people having heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems, and that led to immediate savings."

In the past, studies have calculated the lifetime value of breaking the tobacco habit, according to the article. That means people gradually miss fewer days of work, live longer and are less likely to develop cancer, emphysema and other respiratory, cardiovascular diseases.

The Massachusetts study used two previous studies that tracked hospital admissions related to heart and lung complaints from 2002 to 2008.

The smoking rate for Massachusetts Medicaid recipients was more than 38 percent in 2006. Within two and a half years, 40 percent of Medicaid smokers had used the benefit and their smoking rate had dropped to 10 percent.

Nationally, smoking-related illnesses are estimated to cost Medicaid about $50 billion a year.

While the temptation must be great to cut across the board, Maine's lawmakers should look elsewhere for cuts.

Smoking cessation programs within Medicaid almost certainly save the state more money than they cost.

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.

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PAUL ST JEAN's picture

When everyone has quit

When everyone has quit smoking and the tobacco industry has gone the way of the dinosaur, who will be required to make up the shortfall in tax revenues to federal and state coffers that are currently being paid by tobacco companies to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars per year? Hmmmm? Wouldn't by any chance be the former smoking and non-smoking taxpayers, would it?

AL PELLETIER's picture

more taxes

That tax revenue would probably be replaced by an entertainment tax. That would be a tax charged every time we access the internet. OOPS! I bet I just gave some lawmaker an idea.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

You may have just cooked our

You may have just cooked our goose, bud...

Steve  Dosh's picture

Paul , 12.01.18 ? 5 pm in

Paul , 12.01.18 ? 5 pm in Hawai'i
Mostly just the smokers . That's why cigarettes are US$100 a carton these days . US$Billions so far
Maryland tobacco is best for cigarettes , Virginia for pipes , West Indies for cigars . Connecticutt Valley shade for sweet cigar wrappers
Darn Cherokee Indians
Why did they teach us white men how to smoke peace pipes in Winston - Salem and Raleigh , No. Car. in the first place ? HAhah . ..just a joke . i am a true supporter of indigenous peoples' and others' rights , be they red , yellow , olive , back , brown or white skinned or even G L B T
b t w - Wikipedia ® is down today in protest ref :
/s, Dr. Dosh , Hawai'i . wiki means ƒast in Hawai'ian

Steve  Dosh's picture

Stop-smoking programs pay quick dividends

all , †uesday 11:30
. . Stop smoking , now . It's expensive , the greatest threat to your and others' health around you , will do you no good and tobacco is harmful to the soil and causes cancer in the State of Californis
if you m u s t smoke , grow your own . Maryland and Virginia tobaccos co$t almost US$100 a carton these days ~ Do not dip or chew ( lip and tongue cancers ) , do not use snuff ( nassty and sinus cancers ) , do smoke pipe and cigars ( they s t i n k and you risk throat cancers ) We are unable to ship tobacco products to the state of Maine . We will comply with laws of all states in regard to the shipment of tobacco product
/s, a former tobaconnist who guit , cold turkey

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The parrot sez cancer cures

The parrot sez cancer cures smoking.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Insurance companies don't want to hear about it

The first time I wanted to quit smoking in 2000, I was told my insurance company at the time would not cover any smoking cesasion supplies. This was a major company. My company changed companies the following year. Again to a large national company. You want to quit smoking your on your own. They had no problem paying the ambulance cost and the five days I spent in the hospital with pnumonia. I eventually quit on my own with help from Maines quit smoking hotline. kind of makes you wonder what thier mindset was.

AL PELLETIER's picture

Good for you Frank

I too quit smoking 8 years ago with the great help I got from the Maine Tobacco Hot Line. It's an excellent program and without their help I'd probably still be huffing and puffing today.
We also have insurance with a major company through my wife's work place (Marden's). She tried to quit 5 years ago with no help from the insurance company but Marden's stepped up to the plate and paid for Chantix. She quit for six months and, you know the rest of the story.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Good job of quitting, Al. You

Good job of quitting, Al. You need to help your mate to quit as well. One only quits smoking once; everything else is practice. 0O:-)

AL PELLETIER's picture

I've tried Paul

And you know what I get? If you leave the beer alone I might try and the operative words there are "might try"!
She simply loves it to much and I'm afraid that getting sick is the only thing that will convince her to give it up. Kind of like closing the barn door after the cows get loose.
P.S I do beer in moderation.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

When she's ready she'll quit;

When she's ready she'll quit; she just hasn't found the right reason yet.....all things in moderation; moderation in all things.


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