New Tools and Support Could Help

Stop smoking

Cigarette smoking in our region has steadily declined since 2004, but rates in upstate NY continue to be higher than New York State and national averages, according to a Univera Healthcare (Univera) report.

“We’re releasing this report with the hope that those who resolve to quit smoking in the New Year may finally put an end to this life-shortening habit,” said Richard Vienne, D.O., Univera vice president and chief medical officer. “There also are a variety of tools available to help make that resolution stick,” Vienne added.

A provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides resources to help smokers quit. Most private health insurance plans offer tools, such as tobacco use screenings and cessation interventions for tobacco users. And women who are pregnant can receive smoking cessation counseling at no out-of-pocket cost. Stop smoking counseling also is covered for those with Medicare.

The report found that while 20.9 percent of upstate New York adults smoke, the rate for New York State adults is significantly lower (16.2 percent), as is the smoking rate among all U.S. adults (18.1 percent). In Western New York, 22.7 percent of adults smoke, (23.1 percent are males and 20.8 percent are females). The data also shows that, over the past decade, the rate of adult smokers in our region has declined 5.4 points, while the rate of adult smokers in New York State declined 4.9 points, and the rate of adult smokers in the U.S. declined 3.7 points.

Vienne is disappointed that the rate of decline amongst smokers isn’t greater. He says, “Taxpayers have spent a fortune over the past 50 years to educate people on the dangers of smoking, New York has placed restrictions on where people can smoke, and the state’s taxes on cigarettes are among the highest in the country. Still, about 24,000 New Yorkers die each year from diseases caused by smoking, and 3,000 more lives are claimed by exposure to secondhand smoke. Smoking costs New Yorkers more than $15.6 billion annually in medical costs and economic productivity losses. “Imagine the great initiatives we could fund if we could redirect those costs,” says Vienne.

So who is smoking? It varies by socio-economic demographic. One in five adults age 25-34 (21.0 percent) smokes. Adults who haven’t earned a high school diploma or GED are more than three times more likely to smoke (24 vs. 7.3 percent) than college graduates. And adults with incomes below $15,000 are twice more likely to smoke (25.2 vs. 11.7 percent) than those with incomes of $50,000 or more.

“We wanted to document 50 years of progress in reducing the impact of cigarette smoking on public health and health care spending, but instead found a 50-year trail of success and failure,” said Vienne. “Our hope is that those who resolve to quit smoking in the New Year will take advantage of the additional support available as part of the ACA so they can kick the smoking habit once and for all.”

See to watch a video of former upstate New York smokers who offer smoking cessation tips.