published Sunday, December 18th, 2011

Report rates Georgia low for anti-tobacco efforts


by Naomi Jagoda
  • photo
    Staff Photo by Laura-Chase McGehee/Chattanooga Times Free Press Twenty-year smoker Chuck Honeycutt of Chattanooga takes a smoking break outside the Bi-Lo on Chickamauga Avenue in Rossville.

MOST QUIT-FRIENDLY STATES

  1. Maine
  2. North Dakota
  3. Delaware
  4. (tie) Oklahoma and Wyoming



Least quit-friendly states

  1. Georgia
  2. Louisiana
  3. (tie) Alabama and Maryland
  4. New Jersey

Source: American Lung Association


WANT TO QUIT?

Alabama: 1-800-QUITNOW

Georgia: 1-877-270-7867

Tennessee: 1-800-QUITNOW

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Georgia ranked last in a report measuring states' efforts to help people quit using tobacco products, and Alabama also fared poorly.

In an American Lung Association report released this month, Georgia was dubbed the least quit-friendly state, and Alabama tied with Maryland as third least quit-friendly.

Tennessee was unranked because of unreported data.

The report examined states' tobacco cessation coverage for Medicaid recipients, coverage in state employee health plans, per-smoker investment in stop-smoking telephone lines and standards for private insurance coverage.

As of Jan. 1, Georgia and Alabama will be the only two states that don't cover tobacco-cessation treatments -- including gum, pills and counseling -- for everyone on Medicaid. Georgia and Alabama cover treatments only for pregnant Medicaid recipients, as required by the federal government, the report stated.

"That is a huge factor as to why they're on the bottom of our lists," said Jennifer Singleterry, the association's manager of cessation policy.

June Deen, Georgia state director for the lung association, said the General Assembly discussed expanding Medicaid coverage several years ago but never acted.

She hopes the Legislature or the Georgia Department of Community Health expands coverage soon, and said the lung association plans to talk to public officials again about the issue.

"It really is an ounce of prevention that is important," she said. "This is something that Georgia doesn't need to be behind in."

Ashley Lyerly, Alabama advocacy director for the lung association, said the organization also will meet with state lawmakers in the upcoming legislative session.

Lack of funding has prevented movement on the issue, she said. One way costs could be offset is to increase the price of tobacco products.

The other big reason why Georgia and Alabama ranked poorly was because they don't spend much on their quit-smoking lines, Singleterry said.

Georgia spends 79 cents per smoker on its line, and Alabama spends $1.14 per smoker. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that states fund stop-smoking lines at a minimum of $10.53 per smoker -- though most states fall short of this amount.

"Almost all states need to do better," Singleterry said.

Deen said the lack of funds means Georgia's quit line isn't properly promoted.

Lyerly agreed that raising the prices of tobacco products could boost funding to Alabama's quit line.

Tennessee was unranked in the report because the Lung Association had insufficient information about its policies and practices, Singleterry said.

Starting July 1, TennCare, Tennessee's Medicaid program, began to cover smoking-cessation treatments for all recipients, spokeswoman Kelly Gunderson said.

The expansion occurred because Gov. Bill Haslam put it into the 2012 fiscal year budget approved by the Legislature.

"It was something important to the governor," Gunderson said.

The state's quit-line funding was listed as not reported by the lung association.

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