Media Resources/Steven Doll
So you want to quit smoking before the new health insurance premiums take effect? Here’s the lowdown on the health benefits you’ll receive and what you’ll need for success in your quit attempt. Plus, there’s one resource that is closer than you may think.
In these Q-and-A sessions, we take a closer look at pressing topics within the dental profession and what they mean to Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry.
From TAMHSC-BCD initiatives to hot-button questions, we consult the college’s own subject matter experts to get their input.
This issue includes the perspectives of Dr. K. Vendrell Rankin, director of Baylor Tobacco Treatment Services, who is also professor and associate chair of public health sciences.
In light of the new A&M Care Plan changes set to begin Sept. 1 — there will be a monthly $30 charge for any tobacco users covered on employees’ health care policies — Rankin shares a bit more about the supportive, confidential nature of the dental school’s tobacco treatment center and the benefits of quitting smoking, some of which are practically instantaneous.
The very first changes are as follows:
- 20 minutes after quitting – Blood pressure and pulse rate drop to normal.
- Eight hours after quitting – Carbon monoxide and oxygen levels in the blood return to normal.
- 24 hours after quitting – Chances for heart attack decrease.
- 48 hours after quitting – Ability to taste and smell is enhanced, and nerve endings start to re-grow.
It’s pretty eye-opening, and that’s not even considering the spare cash it frees up in your wallet.
Not only does the tobacco treatment center now accept outside patients, it also provides its services free of charge to any faculty or staff member, which means if you’re looking for that extra push to quit before fall, you have a resource on the college’s seventh floor. Plus, you gain an ally in Elain Benton, the clinic’s certified tobacco treatment counselor and dental hygienist who coaches patients through every phase of their quit attempt.
BDRO: What are some of the special concerns you have to take into consideration when trying to create an environment where not only patients feel comfortable coming to seek your services, but co-workers, too?
Rankin: All of our records are confidential and comply with HIPAA — Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act — regulations. This obviously means that we do not discuss any patients outside the confines of the tobacco clinic and can only divulge information with the patient's consent. We schedule sessions at the patients' convenience, which means the lunch hour may be a good option. We do not bill for services for faculty, staff, students or patients of record, so it will not show up on medical insurance documents.
One thing to note: Anyone with unlimited access to patient records in Axium will be able to see tobacco counseling, and as you purchase prescription medications such as Chantix, Zyban, a nicotine inhaler or nicotine nasal spray, they will appear on drug coverage.
BDRO: What are the relative costs of quitting compared to the costs of continued tobacco use?
Rankin: You could simply multiply the cost of a pack of cigarettes times the number of packs per week or month, etc. — $5.80 for Marlboro at present. The question is a bit more complicated if you trade the cost of cessation pharmacotherapy for the amount you spend per day on cigarettes.
The cost of a single form of pharmacotherapy is equal to or less than the cost of a pack of cigarettes per day. However, the nicotine replacement products are sold in larger quantities than a pack of cigarettes — 20 per pack — so the "cash in hand" amount required to purchase the cessation drugs is greater than the cost of a single pack of cigarettes.
Additionally, the prices of over-the-counter products vary, depending on where you purchase them and if you buy brand or generic. We always point out that the person who does quit will be paying for the cessation drugs only for a limited period of time — not for the rest of his or her life.
The standard of care now is to combine two or more forms of pharmacotherapy. Your insurance may or may not cover the medications. Some cover none, some cover some forms and others cover any form.
Then the real issue in terms of economic costs is captured in the following: Smoking-related diseases cost Americans $96 billion a year in direct health care expenses, a substantial portion of which come in the form of taxpayer-supported payments. This does not include the cost of sick leave attributed to smoking-related illness. In contrast, the tobacco industry spends $10 billion annually to make cigarettes more attractive and available, particularly to youths and young adults.