Successful Massachusetts tobacco cessation program gets national attention..

December 18, 2009 - Back on November 18, 2009 we reported on a Massachuetts health program where lower income smokers have dramatically abandoned their habit amid a major state campaign that vigorously promotes and pays for tobacco addiction treatment. (Massachusettes - lower income smokers giving up their nicotine addiction.. At this time Governor Deval Patrick commented: "These findings have national significance for upcoming major decisions in health care reform."

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The Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program and MassHealth worked together to design a double barrier-free benefit that involved a double-barreled approach which combines counseling and medication. Beginning in July 2006, MassHealth began providing coverage of smoking cessation as part of the state’s health care reform initiative. Within just one year, users of the smoking cessation benefit had dramatic reductions in hospitalizations for heart attacks, declines in emergency and clinic visits for asthma, and a significant decrease in acute birth complications.

In the first two and a half years of the benefit, over 75,000 MassHealth members have tried to quit smoking. This represents 40 percent of smokers on MassHealth, a level unprecedented in the nation.

As predicted by the governor the success of this program has grabbed national attention, with several United States senators and anti-smoking advocates using the data to push for similar new Medicaid coverage for tobacco addiction in the national health care legislation.

The benefit was introduced into an environment that encourages quitting smoking: Massachusetts has smoke-free workplaces, high cigarette taxes, and a non-smoking social norm, all of which contribute to smokers wanting to quit.

Reference: Massachusetts Antismoking Plan Gets Attention by ABBY GOODNOUGH, The New York Times, 12/16/2009.