Thursday, January 14, 2010

Smoking Cessation: Effectiveness and Cost Effectiveness

Smoking is a gigantic problem in the U.S. According to CDC, smoking is the single most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the U.S. Over 40 million adults smoke in this country, and 126 million adults and children are exposed to secondhand smoke. Although trends have indicated that tobacco use is on the decline, it is still a huge issue.

And it's pervasive in our society. I mean, even movies like Avatar feature characters who smoke! The WHO encourages media to limit or eliminate smokers highlighted in TV shows and movies.

If you smoke, stop! It's hard, no doubt. It takes the average smoker several times for quitting to actually stick. And here are some options to do so:
  1. Quitting cold turkey - Quitting all of a sudden and sustaining it undoubtedly requires a great deal of will and determination. Enlist your friends, family, and coworkers to help you quit.
  2. Nicotine fading - This method involves reducing your tobacco intake slowly until you eventually quit. This option is inexpensive, easy, and reduces the potential for withdrawal.
  3. Nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) - These therapies include nicotine gum and nicotine skin patches, and they are recommended with reservations as part of a "comprehensive smoking cessation program."
  4. Finally, there are prescription medications such as Zyban that help people stop smoking.
  5. Support groups and counseling can also help greatly when combined with other methods.
Insurance companies are covering smoking cessation aids more and more, recognizing the cost effectiveness of helping their patients quit. The benefits and cost effectiveness are overwhelming. One article states, "The results of existing economic evaluations consistently indicate that smoking cessation interventions are relatively cost-effective in terms of cost per life-year saved." An article in JAMA also suggests smoking cessation is cost-effective. Based on a study of various interventions, the study found that smoking cessation is a particularly cost-effective intervention, compared with other preventive health interventions. "The more intensive the intervention, the lower the cost per QALY [quality-adjusted life year] saved, which suggests that greater spending on interventions yields more net benefit."

And that smoking cessation is cost-effective just makes common sense! "If you’re paying about 10 bucks a day for a pack of cigarettes in New York City, that adds up to about $6,000 over two years," said Thomas Glynn, of the American Cancer Society. "You could check yourself into the in-patient program at Mayo Clinic for that," he says in this recent New York Times article.

Of course, the tobacco industry is ridiculously powerful. This webpage (albeit a little extreme) showcases tobacco companies and their truths. Another site also highlights the pervasiveness of tobacco companies. Tobacco companies claim to aid in smoking cessation, but from their business's perspective, why should they? If smokers across the country quit, they buy fewer cigarettes, and their profits decrease, equaling no more company. It's in their financial interest to keep smokers smoking!

The bottom line: Tobacco use is a problem in the U.S. Quitting benefits your health and it is cost effective to do so. Resolve to quit today!

Here are more resources:

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