Budget Cuts Hit Quit-Smoking Line in Washington State
Services offered by a quit-smoking hotline will be drastically reduced for uninsured smokers in Washington state starting on August 1.
The reduction is a result of a $1.7 million budget cut to the quit line, according to The Seattle Times. Currently, the quit line offers nicotine-replacement therapy and counseling. Starting next month, Washington residents without insurance will only be allowed a single phone call to the 1-800-QUIT-NOW hotline. They will receive advice, but no counseling, checkups or nicotine replacement therapy. Those services will be available only to people with health insurance that provides smoking cessation coverage.
Washington state has one of the lowest adult smoking rates in the country, at 17.4 percent. The rate dropped 30 percent since 2000, when the quit line and other anti-tobacco initiatives were instituted. The quit line received more than 10,000 calls annually.
“This is the last shoe to drop,” Tim Church, Director of Communications for the Washington State Department of Health, told the newspaper. He noted the state used to spend $27 million each year on prevention programs in schools, advertising campaigns and the quit line. Since 2010, nearly all of the budget and programs have been cut. “It’s sad because we’ve been a really progressive and aggressive state when it comes to tobacco,” he noted.
According to a state Department of Health news release, more than 147,000 people have received help from the quit line since it opened in 2000. “Today, there are many more former smokers in Washington than there are current smokers. The estimated 329,000 fewer smokers in the state has represented an overall savings of $3 billion in future health care costs,” according to the release.