Report calls for greater access to smoking-cessation programs

A decade after the master settlement agreement, further gains are being sought against tobacco-related illnesses.

By Victoria Stagg Elliott — Posted Dec. 15, 2008

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Treatments to help people quit smoking should be paid for by insurance and offered routinely in the health care setting, according to a document issued last month by a coalition of public health officials, consumer health advocates and business leaders. Funding for quit lines also should be increased, according to the report by the National Working Group for ACTTION (Access to Cessation Treatment for Tobacco In Our Nation). The goal is the provision of comprehensive tobacco cessation services to 50% of smokers by 2015 and 100% by 2020.

"[Smokers] are making quit attempts, but they make missteps and are unaware of the resources that are out there," said Judy Monroe, MD, Indiana's state health commissioner and one of the group's members.

According to the "Call for ACTTION," only 30% of smokers who want to quit use proven treatments, and only one in 50 employers offers cessation programs. This document calls for businesses to provide access to smoking cessation, increase awareness of the availability of these services among staff and offer incentives to access them. Public health organizations should promote using evidence-based treatments for quitting and include tobacco-use treatment performance measures in "pay for performance." Health care systems should establish strategies to make it more likely that all patients are screened for tobacco use and offered treatment as appropriate.

"Ending tobacco addiction is crucial to our nation's health and its economic well-being," said John M. Clymer, president of Partnership for Prevention, the organization that coordinated this group and the writing of the report.

In a related development, the American Cancer Society and the organization's Cancer Action Network issued a statement Nov. 23 to mark the 10th anniversary of the master settlement agreement between the tobacco industry and 46 states. This group is calling for states to renew their commitment to using this money for tobacco-prevention programs, going smoke-free, increasing taxes on tobacco and expanding access to cessation tools.

The American Medical Association has copious anti-smoking policies and supports health insurance coverage for pharmacologic and behavioral treatment of nicotine dependence. It also encourages physicians to incorporate smoking-cessation efforts into medical care by asking all patients whether they use tobacco and providing counseling on quitting to those who do.

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External links

Consolidation of AMA Policy on Tobacco and Smoking, American Medical Association Council on Scientific Affairs, June 2004 (link)

The National Working Group for ACTTION (Access to Cessation of Tobacco Treatment in Our Nation) (link)

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