TRENTON, NJ – New Jersey Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson commemorated the Great American Smokeout on Thursday by urging smokers to reach out to their healthcare provider for help quitting – including those on Medicaid who can now take advantage of new cessation benefits offered by the Murphy administration.

Johnson also announced the Department will be surveying mental health and substance use disorder providers about their smoking cessation programs and policies.

“We want to ensure everyone is doing all they can to help New Jerseyans vulnerable to smoking and its dangers,” Johnson said. “Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in New Jersey, leading to chronic lung disease, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. The Murphy administration is committed to reducing tobacco use, which kills 11,800 New Jerseyans each year, and we are committed to reaching all New Jerseyans to provide the help they need to take steps to quit and improve – and most likely save – their lives.”

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Sponsored by the American Cancer Society, the Great American Smokeout is an annual event held every third Thursday of November to mark a time when smokers can decide to stop using tobacco. Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and the world. Overall mortality of the average smoker is three times that of those who never smoked, and rates of cancer, respiratory, and vascular disease in smokers is also higher.

Earlier this year, the Murphy Administration announced new steps to help New Jersey Medicaid recipients quit using tobacco by making it easier to receive tobacco cessation medications and counseling.

Medicaid no longer requires that people get prior approval from their health plan before they obtain tobacco cessation medications, and will add group counseling for tobacco cessation to services it covers.

Meanwhile, Johnson noted that the Department’s Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) will be surveying licensed behavioral health providers in the state, so the division can learn about agencies’ current services and training needs to help people quit. 

Some facts about the effects of smoking in people with a mental illness or a substance use disorder include:

  • The CDC estimates that individuals with a behavioral health disorder consume 40 percent of all cigarettes sold in the United States.  They not only smoke at much higher rates than the general public, but they also smoke more heavily. 
  • People with a serious mental illness are especially harmed by their smoking, and they die as much as 25 years earlier than the average American.
  • Recent studies show that quit rates for people with serious psychological distress are half of those without mental health issues.
  • Individuals with a substance use disorder are less likely to quit using drugs when they also smoke.

“We will continue to work to remove barriers so that individuals trying to quit tobacco can get the help they need,” Johnson said. “Today is a great time to take the first step toward a healthier lifestyle, but healthcare providers and Medicaid can help New Jerseyans take this step every day of the year. We are here to help.”