The government spends between £32 to £47 billion per year to cover medical costs related to the nearly 430,000 deaths caused by cigarette smoking. In an effort to drive down costs and to prevent smoking-related deaths, the government has put in place a number of programs to help teens, adults and the elderly quit smoking.
In 1969, legislation required tobacco companies to place warning labels on cigarette packets declaring, "Cigarette smoking may be hazardous to your health"; thus began one of the first government campaigns for smoking prevention. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimated in 2002 that job productivity lost, premature death of workers and other smoking-related illnesses cost the American economy £97 billion a year. It's statistics such as these that have pushed the government to embark on a variety of campaigns and smoking cessation programs targeting all age groups, ethnicities and genders.
Smoking Cessation Website
The government's antismoking website, Smokefree.gov, has a host of information available to health professionals and interactive pages for people who are looking to quit smoking. The site features compelling advertisements about quitting smoking, expert help and guidance, an online chat feature that allows quitters to "speak" with counsellors, telephone assistance and a list of medications designed to aid withdrawal symptoms. There are also links to agencies such as the National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association. Studies and research associated with smoking, and a page specifically designed for women, are also prominently featured.
Smoking and Seniors
Medicare has also started a program with the goal of helping seniors quit smoking. Similar to other cessation tools, the Medicare program distributes print materials, offers both in person and phone-in counselling, nicotine patches and other medicines related to quitting smoking.
Smoking and Teenagers
On the other end of the scale, there is an effort to reach teenagers before they ever pick up their first cigarette. It's estimated that 20 per cent of American teenagers currently smoke cigarettes, even though it's illegal to purchase them until a person is 18. The CDC and the American Lung Association (AMA) has partnered with researchers at West Virginia University to launch a nationwide campaign aimed at teens called Not On Tobacco. The AMA provides educational materials to schools and community organisations designed to keep kids from smoking. In addition, the CDC also offers videos, DVDs, tip posters and sports initiative programs as tobacco prevention tools.
Other Government Efforts
The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC, continues to partner with national, state and local agencies to provide programs aimed at tobacco control. The National Tobacco Control Program helps to fund health departments nationwide in tobacco-use prevention, including an effort to protect the public from exposure to second-hand smoke through legislation, such as lobbying for smoking bans in public places.