In Massachusetts and across the country, communities are working hard together to reduce smoking rates and the real impacts of smoking-related illness and death on both our families and our health care system. This is a fight being waged on many fronts, and today, I’d like to put the spotlight on one particular tool we here in Massachusetts have proudly passed – a tool that shows real results in cutting smoking rates, and ultimately cutting health care costs across our Commonwealth.
On July 24, the Massachusetts Legislature passed Massachusetts’ Governor Deval L. Patrick’s proposed $1 cigarette tax increase as part of the Commonwealth’s transportation finance bill. The tax went into effect on July 31, 2013, seven days after its passage. Data has shown that cigarette tax increases are a proven public health strategy – reducing rates and literally saving lives. With just a $1 increase on the price of a pack of cigarettes, our Commonwealth has chosen to prevent 27,000 young people in Massachusetts from becoming addicted to tobacco, and has come together to motivate 24,900 Massachusetts smokers to quit. These are real-world impacts – on our friends, family members and folks in our communities.
But putting a higher price tag on a pack of cigarettes is just a first step. Our job now is to help increase the chances of success for any smoker who wants to try to quit. Quitting smoking can be hard, but there are ways to make it easier:
- Using FDA-approved smoking cessation medicines or counseling can double your chances of quitting for good.
- Talk with your doctor about quitting smoking and what will work best for you. Ask about FDA-approved medicines, which include the nicotine patch, nicotine gum, Chantix, and bupropion.
- Many health insurance plans cover FDA-approved medicines and counseling to help you quit smoking. MassHealth and Commonwealth Care do. Call your health plan to find out what’s covered.
- Call the DPH Massachusetts Smokers’ Helpline at 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669) for advice and counseling at no cost.
- Learn about proven ways to quit at the Make Smoking History website: www.makesmokinghistory.org.
If someone in your life is thinking about quitting smoking, talk to them and see how you can help support them. Some people need to try quitting a few times before they can quit for good, so your patience, encouragement, and understanding can make the difference.
Join me today in celebrating another small victory – a victory that will save real lives and cut real costs in our communities. Thank you!