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Cost-effective for insurance to cover stop smoking drugs

China Daily | Updated: 2018-05-29 07:58


Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong province, has launched a tobacco control plan that mentions listing smoking cessation medications in the basic medical care insurance. Beijing News comments:

The reported plan of Shenzhen is quite ambitious. According to reports, Shenzhen plans to build a "tobacco-free city" by 2020, as well as maintain the smoking rate of the elderly population below 20 percent.

In order to realize these goals, the municipal government has shown strong determination. For example, it has already ordered all public-sponsored hospitals and community health centers to open smoking cessations clinics by the end of this year. At the same time, the plan also mentions that Shenzhen will explore the inclusion of smoking cessation drugs in the list of medications covered by medical insurance.

It is the last of these measures that has aroused controversy. Many people have challenged the proposed measure, saying it is a waste of taxpayers' money to improve the health of a few who have chosen to risk their own health.

Actually, the World Health Organization has clearly defined tobacco addiction as a chronic disease in terms of medical science. More important, smoking hurts the health of not only smokers, but also nonsmokers who suffer from secondhand smoke. According to reports, there are over 300 million smokers in China and 760 million secondhand smokers. If the former could quit smoking, that would be good news for at least 1 billion people.

The cost of paying for smoking cessation drugs will be much less than the cost of treating diseases caused by smoking and passive smoking, because most smoking-related diseases are major conditions such as lung cancer for which the treatments are more expensive. If the smokers quit smoking, this money may be saved. Therefore, the inclusion of smoking cessation drugs in health insurance may, in a sense, save public money. Shenzhen's move will help people quit smoking and therefore it should be supported.

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