Public Policy to Maximize Tobacco Cessation

Tax increases, smoke-free workplaces and increased insurance coverage add encouragement for smokers to quit. For smokers, quitting is the biggest step they can take to improve their health. Policy-based interventions can encourage smokers to quit and help them succeed. Among the recommendations to harness public policies that encourage smokers to quit:

  • Tax increases: To maximize the impact of tobacco tax increases on smoking quit rates, states should promote free and effective services, such as telephone quitlines coincidental to announcing tax (and therefore price) increases.
  • Smoke-free workplace laws: These laws provide an environment that protects nonsmokers from secondhand smokers and give smokers incentive to quit. Educating hospitality venues about implementation of the law provides additional opportunities to encourage quitting.
  • Cover cessation: To meet increased demand for evidence-based smoking-cessation services, public and private insurers should cover these life-saving interventions.

With the Federal Drug Administration’s new (June 2009) authority to regulate tobacco products and marketing practices, the authors of this article also suggest a number of areas for enhanced activity by the FDA. These suggestions include baring the sale of flavored tobacco products that are attractive to youth; requiring scientific proof by companies marketing brands as less harmful or “safer;” and requiring rigorous product testing on nontobacco nicotine delivery products.

This article is part of a special issue on tobacco cessation in the March 2010 edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.