The Great American Smokeout: Helping People Quit

posted by AHIP

on November 18, 2020

The third Thursday in November marks The Great American Smokeout – a campaign from the American Cancer Society inviting smokers to band together to quit using tobacco. This year, as the world battles COVID-19, a respiratory illness, the Smokeout takes on new meaning.

It’s not news that tobacco is bad for you. Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, diabetes, emphysema, and more. And the WHO notes that tobacco kills more than 8 million people globally each year, making it a leading cause of death worldwide. The good news is that smoking rates among U.S. adults have declined significantly over time, from 42% in 1965 to 14% in 2017. But cigarette smoking still causes 480,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. And a study published in The Lancet in October 2020 found that $130 billion in health care spending in the U.S. in 2016 was tied to smoking.

According to the American Cancer Society, quitting smoking can show benefits soon after your last cigarette, and one year after quitting, a person’s risk of heart attack drops dramatically. That’s why health insurance providers – including Medicare and Medicaid plans – cover a variety of smoking cessation benefits, which may include nicotine replacement therapies (spray, gum, and transdermal patches, for example), medications, and counseling.

Here’s how some health insurance providers help people quit tobacco:

Since making news a couple of years ago for removing tobacco products from their stores, CVS Health has doubled down on their commitment to helping people who smoke quit, and those who don’t never to start. The company has pledged not to work with agencies that promote tobacco use, and also invests in tobacco prevention for youth.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan offers a 12-week coaching and support program from WebMD to members who are ready to quit.

As in so many other parts of our daily life, new digital apps are helping people to quit and stay tobacco-free. Members of BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina are eligible for a 33% discount on the QuitSmart Mindfully Smoking Cessation Program – which applies the principles of mindfulness-based stress reduction to help smokers change their thinking and behavior.

The Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC) is making a big investment in Solera – a startup initially focused on chronic disease prevention via lifestyle modification programs including tobacco cessation. These investments will help Solera scale up their model to address behavioral health and social determinants of health for health insurance plan members.

Fewer people are smoking today than in years past, and that bodes well for their health and productivity. In addition to the toll on health, smoking costs the United States $300 billion per year in health care and lost productivity. When health insurance providers invest in helping people quit using tobacco products, they are helping people to live longer, healthier lives.

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