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Health Care Policy and Law
September 21, 2020

Tobacco Dependence Treatment Is Critical to Excellence in Health Care

Author Affiliations
  • 1School of Nursing, University of California, Los Angeles
  • 2School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • 3School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
JAMA Intern Med. 2020;180(11):1413-1414. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.3972

The treatment of tobacco dependence1 is critical to health and should be foundational to excellence in health care delivery. The Surgeon General’s 2020 report identified low-cost interventions that are effective in helping people quit smoking when used in both outpatient and inpatient clinical settings and indicated that the benefits of quitting for health and well-being are substantial.2 Almost 500 000 Americans die annually from tobacco use, and 16 million have serious tobacco-induced chronic diseases.2 This results in $170 billion in health care costs, including $110 billion from hospitalizations.3 People who use evidence-based cessation interventions are more likely to quit smoking than those who do not.2 Too few of the 34 million Americans who are addicted to nicotine receive assistance from health care professionals.2 Many more lives could be saved if universal treatment of tobacco dependence were implemented across all health care systems, both during hospitalization and after discharge.1

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    1 Comment for this article
    Show Me the Money
    Richard Brown, MD, MPH |
    What little reimbursement hospitals would receive for tobacco cessation services pales in comparison to the money they'd lose from repeat customers. But hospitals are not to blame. They're just playing the game by the rules we (our government) have set up for them. If we want healthcare organizations to deliver evidence-based, cost-saving preventive services, we have to insist that our government provide strong financial incentives.