State Subsidies for Smokers?

By Dirk Hanson 04/14/11

In 2006, Massachusetts began paying for stop-smoking treatments--and admissions for heart attacks fell by a staggering 46%. Now Ontario wants to do the same thing.

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Will states fund stop-smoking programs?
Photo via thinkstockphotos

Smokers, as a rule, don’t die cheaply. In fact, it’s cheaper to pay for the cost of patches and pills for smokers than it is to stand by and do nothing, according to a recent cost-benefit analysis performed by the Ontario Health Ministry. Officials there said the province stands to save hundreds of millions of dollars per year if it follows the lead of Massachusetts and other states and provinces that cover the cost of anti-craving drugs for smokers. The Ontario Record reports that smoking robs the province of more than $1.5 billion per year. Quebec and Saskatchewan already offer drug plans covering Zyban and Chantix for smokers trying to quit. In 2006, Massachusetts began paying for stop-smoking treatments-–nicotine patches, gum, and drugs—and found that the state’s yearly rate of hospital admissions for heart attacks among Medicaid clients fell by a staggering 46%. Hospitalizations for clogged arteries fell by almost half as well. A report published in the Public Library of Science journal PloS Medicine documented the findings. We know too much. There’s no place to hide. There’s never been a better time to quit.

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]