In advance of a one dollar increase in the tax on cigarettes and little cigars on July 1, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is encouraging those who wish to quit smoking to take advantage of programs that may be available to provide help.
The tax increase is projected to prompt more than 18,000 Oklahomans to stop smoking and the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline (1-800-QUIT-NOW, 1-800-784-8669) is expecting an increase in calls from those who want to give up the smoking habit.
OSDH is also encouraging state employers to join in the effort to educate their employees on what assistance may be available for those who want to quit. Smoking costs Oklahoma businesses an estimated $5,816 per smoker per year, primarily in the form of increase health care costs and productivity losses.
In 2016, 57.5% of smokers said they had made a least one quit attempt during the past year. It often takes multiple attempts before smokers can give up what for many has been a lifelong habit.
“Quitting is tough but help is available. Health insurance companies that offer major medical coverage are required to cover preventive services such as tobacco use counseling and smoking cessation medications”, said Oklahoma Insurance Department Commissioner John D. Doak.“The services are covered with no out-of-pocket costs and no prior authorization. Oklahomans with questions about coverage for these services are encouraged to call my office at 1-800-522-0071 or check with their employer about benefits offered.”
“As Commissioner Doak points out, help is available and it is to the benefit of employers to make their employees aware of that assistance,” said Interim OSDH Commissioner Tom Bates. “Workers who smoke at least one pack of cigarettes a day experience 75 percent more lost productive time than nonsmoking workers, and just three 15-minute smoke breaks a day add up to more than a week of lost time in just one year.”
“We realize that quitting for many is a difficult thing. That is why it is important to provide support for those who wish to quit and employers can provide a great deal of that support,” said Christin Kirchenbauer, OSDH Cessation Systems Coordinator. “Things like providing extra breaks for the employee to call the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline can provide the boost that they need.”
Employers can provide support for their employees that are motivated to quit tobacco in a number of other ways:
Communicate and promote the company insurance benefits for tobacco cessation - what medication is available, the costs, co-pays, what counseling is available.
Internal resources such as cessation classes, insurance nurse lines, health promotion programs.
Promote and communicate statewide resources like the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline (1-800-QUIT–NOW,1-800-784-8669, Okhelpline.com)
Overall, the reduction in the number of those using tobacco is expected to save the state more than $765 million dollars in long-term health costs.