By Ann Kelly, CSG associate director of health policy
A recent policy blueprint from the Institute of Medicine points to policies states can adopt to help people quit smoking and prevent youth from ever starting to smoke. Without such aggressive policy action, the institute predicts the U.S. smoking rates will not decline further.
Helping people who are motivated to try and quit smoking is one of seven key policies included since safe and effective treatments, including medications, are available and insurance coverage for these treatments is increasing. While it is unlikely that an individual will quit smoking with one treatment, using effective cessation treatments population-wide can significantly reduce smoking rates and ultimately bring about savings in health care and other costs.
One way to achieve that goal is by expanding health coverage for effective treatments through state Medicaid and state employee benefit programs. In doing so, states can lead the way and encourage private insurers to follow suit without mandating benefits. States can also support adoption of the guidelines through health services quality improvement initiatives that encourage use of the best practices guidelines. Quality assurance programs can educate and offer incentives for health care providers to encourage every smoker willing to try quitting to take advantage of the recommended counseling and medication treatments.
Here are the Institute of Medicine’s seven recommended policies to reduce smoking:
- Sustained adequate funding for state tobacco education, media and stop smoking programs.
- Increased tobacco excise taxes that are equalized between states to avoid smuggling.
- Indoor smoking bans in all non-residential locations to protect against second hand smoke and help smokers cut back.
- Restricted sales of tobacco to youth and education to keep them from starting to smoke.
- Help smokers quit by encouraging people to participate in effective smoking cessation treatment.
- Promote community action through coalitions to reduce tobacco use.
- Allow state as well as federal regulation of tobacco products and additives, advertising and retailing.