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New Yorkers Want HMOs to Provide Smoking Programs

Albany, NY – In light of the recent increase in the State's cigarette excise tax, 68 percent of New Yorkers want HMOs to give smokers access to smoking cessation therapies according to a new Zogby International statewide poll commissioned by the American Lung Association of New York State.

"This poll clearly indicates that the majority of New Yorkers believe HMOs should help their members quit smoking," said Stanton Hudson of Buffalo, president of the American Lung Association of New York State.

The need to help smokers quit is even more fitting given the recent increase in the state's cigarette excise tax of $.39 per pack, bringing New York State's cigarette excise tax to a $1.50 per pack, the highest in the nation.

"The American Lung Association of New York State strongly supports increases in cigarette excise taxes because increased cigarette prices reduce cigarette use, especially among youth," Hudson said. "We also strongly support giving smokers a way to escape their addiction to nicotine. Most smokers want to stop smoking but cannot end their addiction to nicotine without help. That's why New York State should require HMOs to cover the costs of smoking cessation therapies and counseling."

The American Lung Association of New York State recommends smoking cessation therapies should include nicotine replacement, physician counseling and group counseling programs.

"The biggest obstacle for smokers trying to quit is gaining access to smoking cessation treatments and counseling services," Hudson said. "Give smokers the tools they need to quit and many more will do so."

Hudson added that doctors who counsel patients about quitting smoking should also be reimbursed because studies have demonstrated such counseling is effective.

"Giving doctors an incentive to counsel their patients about quitting and giving patients access to the tools they need so they can be successful in quitting will mean more people will stop smoking," Hudson said. "Smokers have higher quit-rates when counseling and medication are coupled."

Zogby surveyed more than 700 New Yorkers on their opinions about HMO coverage for smoking cessation therapies. The poll found that the 63 percent of upstate residents and 76 percent of New York City residents support HMOs covering smoking cessation. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.8 percent.

The New York State Legislature is currently considering several bills that would require HMO coverage of smoking cessation therapies.