Proposal to aid in stopping smoking

COLUMBIA --- The sponsor of a bill to help smokers obtain nicotine gum, lozenges, patches and other quitting measures is promising to push his proposal again when lawmakers return to the S.C. Statehouse next year.

Sen. Clementa Pinckney, a Democrat from Jasper County, had introduced legislation in the last session to require health insurance providers to cover nicotine replacement therapies. The bill, S. 1378, died at the end of May, after Republican Sens. Mick Mulvaney of Indian Land, Lee Bright of Roebuck, and Michael Rose of Summerville, tried to amend it to include a challenge of President Obama's health care reform.

Pinckney said he will be using the recess months to build support for his proposal.

"This will ultimately reduce costs by having a healthier pool of insured people," he said.

His bill has the backing of the S.C. Tobacco Collaborative, a coalition aimed at preventing and reducing tobacco use.

Louis Eubank, the group's executive director, said the $5 million in revenue designated to smoking cessation efforts from the 50-cent-per-pack increase in cigarette tax includes $1 million to $1.5 million for the state's quitline.

The hotline, part of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, counsels tobacco addicts and provides nicotine replacement therapy products to the uninsured. Under Pinckney's bill, people who have insurance would be able to more easily obtain nicotine replacement therapy products.

Eubank said the major health insurance providers in South Carolina already cover the products, but the bill would help people who purchase coverage from companies that do not.

"If (Senate bill) 1378 passes, between the quitline and the bill, everyone in South Carolina has access to nicotine therapy, and those two things together form a comprehensive net of cessation and prevention around the state," said Eubank.

Looking to quit?

The S.C. Quitline is a free service for residents of South Carolina age 13 and older.

- It is available 8 a.m.-3 a.m. seven days a week.

- Participants schedule sessions with coaches.

- Those most in need of help quitting receive priority -- Medicaid patients, pregnant women, youth appointed by the courts and the uninsured qualify for the most comprehensive treatment.

- More information can be found at www.scdhec.gov/quitforkeeps.

-- Morris News Service

More