Earlier this week, anti-tobacco activists celebrated a major victory as the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) officially acknowledged that comprehensive tobacco cessation programs (three different forms of counseling and, if needed, pharmaceutical aids) an “A” for efficacy as a preventative health measure. Under federal law, preventative services must be given an “A” in order to be covered by the majority of health insurance plans, at no cost to the patient.

It has long been agreed that quitting smoking is one of the most important preventative health measures that a person can make but the prior USPSTF recommendation could have been interpreted to seem that either therapy or anti-smoking aids were equally effective. Meanwhile, there was a variety of evidence to suggest that pairing the two had the most potential for patients struggling to resist tobacco. This was a stance which a variety of organizations, including the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society, took umbrage with. It has now been officially declared that counseling plus approved pharmacotherapies are extremely effective in the effort to quit. Having access to the necessary tools will surely enable more people to overcome this deadly addiction.

The anti-smoking rhetoric is more than just smoke. (Pun intended.) The use of tobacco – most commonly via cigarettes but also from chew, cigars, etc. – is the number one preventable cause of disability, disease, and death in the USA. 480,000 premature deaths are attributed to cigarettes annually. That equates to one in every five deaths.

The recommendation for pregnant women does not, at this time, include pharmaceutical aids due to potential side effects from the drugs. It is hoped, however, that the behavior guidance – now to be covered by basic insurance plans – will help provide the extra boost of support expectant mothers need. Smoking during pregnancy has been proven to cause a wide variety of nasty congenital anomalies and complications – which can carry on into a child’s life.

As of now, it is estimated that nearly 18% of American adults smoke (roughly 42.1 million people). Given that the figures are still this high despite all of the evidence of the harm that smoking causes demonstrates how necessary it is for people to have access to help in order to quit.

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force was established in 1984 to “improve the health of all Americans by making evidence-based recommendations about clinical preventative services.” Their goal is to assist doctors and patients as they decide which treatments are best at stopping serious health problems before they begin. After publishing a statement, there is an open period where members of the public are invited to comment and challenge their decisions. People are also encouraged to nominate statement topics for review.

The jury is still officially out on whether or not E-cigarettes (officially referred to as electronic nicotine delivery systems or ENDS) are a suitable substitute for people trying to quit but it may not be long before there is an “end” to that perception. (Pun also intended.) Due to the fact that they are a relatively new product, there simply isn’t enough literature yet but the typical E-cig is full of carcinogens so it’s likely just a matter of time before they’re outright discouraged, like traditional tobacco products.

The number of former smokers in the U.S. is now over fifty-one million and it looks like that number will be growing soon! If you or someone you know is having trouble quitting, you don’t have to wait to get help. Start today with the CDC’s Guide for Quitting Smoking. Additionally, check out our previous blog post “COPD and Smoking” for more resources on quitting.