Alliance For The Preventing And Treating Of Nicotine Addiction

Benefits of proven smoking cessation services and treatments

Everyone wins when smokers have access to treatments and services to help them quit. Every Californian pays the cost of smoking through increased insurance rates, health care services and lost productivity. In fact, the cost of smoking is about $500 per Californian per year.

Remember, 90% of smokers started smoking as teenagers. Further, 75% of smokers say they would like to quit. In fact, 62% of California smokers made a quit attempt in 2022. This is a 25% increase in smokers making a quit attempt since 2015. Unfortunately what has not increased is the success rate. California has passed clean indoor air policies and raised tobacco taxes to encourage smokers to quit. Our next step is to increase smokers’ access to effective cessation services and treatments.

Annually, 75% of the four million smokers in California want to quit, but less than 25% are successful every year. Why isn’t the rate of successful quitting higher? Addiction to nicotine has been compared to addiction to heroin for some smokers. Quitting is hard. No one would suggest to a heroin addict that they quit without help. Yet, smokers are often expected to quit on their own. Without help or quitting “cold turkey,” success rates are about 5 percent.

Fortunately there are proven smoking cessation services and treatments that can double or even triple a smoker’s quit rate. Comprehensive smoking cessation programs include coverage for behavior therapy, such as individual or group counseling, and medications, such as the patch, the gum or prescription medications, like Champix, Varenicline (generic Chantix). Currently, most health plans in California do not include comprehensive quit smoking treatment in their standard benefit packages. In an effort to level the playing field and provide access to services for all smokers, the California Tobacco Cessation Center has developed a model smoking cessation benefit (PDF) that provides coverage for behavioral therapy as well as medications. The goal of the Smoking Cessation Benefits Everyone campaign is to encourage health care leaders to include cessation services as a covered benefit in basic health insurance.

Covering smoking cessation services by health plans is politically and fiscally sound and is fair public policy. Continued smoking costs us all money and lives on a daily basis. Making effective services and treatments available to California smokers benefits everyone by reducing health care costs and providing for a healthier California.

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