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Smoking risks hard to reduce

July 1, 2000
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Most Americans who smoke want to quit but get little help from their doctors, according to a report by the U.S. Public Health Service.

70 percent of the 50 million Americans who smoke have tried to quit at least once. More than 20 million Americans will try to stop this year — and only one million will succeed.

The report summarizes new guidelines for getting people to quit. Physicians are urged to treat smoking no differently than other chronic disease such as diabetes and hypertension. They should prescribe nicotine gums, inhalers or patches and refer smokers for counseling. The combination of medicine and frequent counseling is effective in getting people to quit, according to the report.

The guidelines also urge health insurance companies and government health programs to pay for tobacco cessation treatments and counseling. Almost 70 percent of Americans are in health plans sponsored by their employers. Managed care officials say that the decision to cover tobacco cessation programs is up to employers since they must pay for programs or pass costs on to their workers.

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