Monday, March 23, 2009

If just one more person quits smoking, then it's a success

Some of you may have heard about the Michigan QuitLine's recent Free Nicotine Replacement Therapy promotion. You may have heard that it was a bust because the QuitLine ran out of supplies and shut down after only five days. You may have heard that it was all a ploy on behalf of the Governor's office, i.e. "offer something good for free then shut down the program when it starts to work."

We here at Tobacco Free Michigan were stunned and pleasantly surprised at the response to the Michigan Department of Community Health's Quitline promotion. We've also been shocked by some of the comments we've overheard on the net and in person about the promotion's "failure." So, we came up with an FAQ sheet to address some of the questions, comments, and concerns we've heard about the Quitline in recent weeks.

What is the Quitline?
The Quitline provides services to Michigan residents that want to quit using tobacco products. The Quitline offers a personal health coach, participant toolkits and referrals to local programs help tobacco users gain the confidence and motivation they need to quit for good.

Why did the Quitline stop taking calls?
After launching the Free Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) promotion on March 11, Michigan’s Quitline received over 66,000 calls in less than a week. This unprecedented response, while terrific, has depleted the Tobacco Prevention Program’s supplies. The Michigan Department of Community Health has temporarily run out of funding to purchase additional NRT or coaching services.

Is the Quitline shut down permanently?
No, in fact the Quitline is still available for Medicaid Managed Care clients. It is also serving all those people who have already signed up for services. The Michigan Department of Community Health is currently seeking more funding to reopen the Quitline to everyone.

I don’t smoke, why is it my problem if these smokers can’t quit?
Because smoke-related illnesses affect everyone, whether they’re breathing in the air, paying taxes toward Medicaid or watching a loved one battle a tobacco-related illness. Tobacco use costs Michigan $3.40 billion annually in health care expenses. Of this amount, Medicaid pays over one billion dollars annually in health care for tobacco-related diseases.

Can I still get Free Nicotine Replacement Therapy?
Although the Michigan Tobacco Quitline is no longer giving away free NRT, there are many local and national programs that provide Michigan residents with support during quit attempts. Many free resources and materials are available by going to

I want to quit, but I don’t have the money to buy patches, gum, or lozenges. What am I supposed to do?
In addition to the programs listed above, your insurance may cover your quit attempt. Call your insurance company to see what programs and medications are covered.

Quit with a buddy. Many people find it hard to buy a week or more supply of nicotine patches or gum all at once. If you quit with a buddy and split the cost of the product, you can reduce your out-of-pocket costs. Others have put the cost of the product on a credit card. They saved all the money they would have spent on cigarettes and used it to pay off the card when the bill came due.

Why did the free promotion end so quickly?
The Quitline free NRT promotion had an unprecedented response. The same promotion ran in the fall of 2008 and had 3,684 callers over a six week period. This promotion received over 66,000 calls in 6 days. The demand for service was far beyond what was projected. The Michigan Department of Community Health has spent over a million dollars on the Michigan Tobacco Quitline this year. This is still not enough to meet the overwhelmingly high demand for Quitline services.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that Michigan spend $12 per person on tobacco prevention. Michigan spends a mere 50 cents per person. The Michigan Tobacco Prevention Program should be funded at a higher level.

Didn’t the tobacco companies give Michigan a huge chunk of change for the tobacco settlements?
YES. The 1998 multi-state tobacco settlement – the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) – provided for annual payments to the states from the major cigarette companies to settle the state’s lawsuits against them, reimburse the states for smoking-caused costs, and provide funds the states promised to use to prevent and reduce tobacco use.

So why not just take dollars from the MSA to fund the Quitline and other Tobacco control projects?
Despite the original intent of the payments, Michigan is not currently using any of its settlement dollars for tobacco prevention or reduction. Although Michigan has received over $400 million in settlement payments, many of those dollars have been securitized for undisclosed “economic development” projects. Medicaid also receives a large amount of the settlement, but NONE of the currently funded projects go toward reducing chronic disease, prevention, or lower healthcare costs.

Fortunately, Michigan received a bonus payment in 2008. Although much of that money is also gone, there is about $5 million that has yet to be designated or securitized.

So the $5 million will go to tobacco prevention and control?
No. As of right now, that $5 million is sitting in a bank and will most likely wind up being securitized. But YOU have the power to change that! Contact the Governor’s office, and your elected officials and let them know that you think it’s time they kept their word and use the MSA money for its true purpose.

Who do I contact to get things set straight?
Contact the Governor’s Office or one of your locally elected representatives.

Governor Jennifer Granholm
P.O. Box 30013
Lansing, Michigan 48909
PHONE: (517) 373-3400
PHONE: (517) 335-7858 - Constituent Services
FAX:(517) 335-6863

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