BATON ROUGE – Healthcare professionals—from doctors and nurses at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana to the U.S. Surgeon General to agencies like the American Cancer Society (ACS)—are encouraging people to use tomorrow’s Great American Smokeout as their impetus to quit using tobacco products.
According to the ACS, which sponsors the annual Smokeout, about 32.4 million American adults still smoke cigarettes. Smoking remains the single largest preventable cause of death and illness in the world. Smoking kills 443,000 Americans and 6,500 Louisianians each year.
The Louisiana Department of Health says 22.7% of Louisiana adults smoked as of 2019, and the Louisiana Public Health Institute states that 12.3% of Louisiana’s teens use tobacco, above the national average of 8.1%.
And, as COVID-19 cases surge once again across the country, available research indicates that smoking and vaping can increase the risk of COVID-19 infection and of worse health outcomes from the virus. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), smoking any kind of tobacco reduces lung capacity and can increase the severity of respiratory diseases. COVID-19 is an infectious disease that primarily attacks the lungs.
Given the health risks, WHO recommends quitting tobacco use. “Quitting will help your lungs and heart to work better from the moment you stop,” the organization states on its website. However, while about 20 million Americans try to quit using tobacco each year, only a fraction succeed.
For these reasons and more, Blue Cross offers access to programs and services that help members quit using tobacco. Most Louisianians also have access to other resources that could help them quit, in addition to the Smokeout tools.
“There is no better time than the present to stop using tobacco,” says Dr. Larry Simon, medical director at Blue Cross. “The Great American Smokeout can be the first day of a much healthier life for anyone who makes that decision and starts that journey. With COVID-19 cases rising, I really encourage people to stop smoking or vaping as soon as possible.”
Dr. Simon discusses the dangers of smoking and vaping and how people can get help to quit. Watch video (07:22).
As part of its mission to improve the health and lives of Louisianians, Blue Cross offers its members nurse health coaching and support through its Care Management programs. The company’s in-house clinical team of nurses, dietitians and social workers will support members on a quitting journey that includes health coaching, setting goals, and sharing tools, tips and resources. Visit www.bcbsla.com/Stronger or call toll-free (800) 821-2749 for more information on how to connect with a Blue Cross health coach or sign up for programs and services. There is no cost to members to work with a Blue Cross health coach.
Most Blue Cross plans cover at low or no cost certain products (like skin patches) or drugs that help members quit tobacco. To find out how these services are covered on your plan, log into your Blue Cross member account at www.bcbsla.com or call Customer Service at the number on your member ID card.
Other Louisianians may want to explore one of the following programs:
Quit with Us, Louisiana! is a free smoking cessation program that offers a wide range of resources, including a toll-free quitline (1-800-QUIT-NOW) and help with medication. www.quitwithusla.org
Well-Ahead Louisiana is a Louisiana Department of Health program that promotes healthy workplaces and tobacco-free environments in Louisiana. The Well-Ahead website includes a wealth of information about smoking cessation.
The Smoking Cessation Trust is a statewide smoking cessation program to benefit all Louisiana residents who started smoking cigarettes before Sept. 1, 1988, and desire to quit smoking. This program provides for the reimbursement of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), telephone quit line services, office visits and counseling. See a complete list of eligible services online at www.smokingcessationtrust.org or call 1-833-724-5728 (toll-free).