Tuesday, March 2, 2010

At the recent health summit in Washington, President Obama repeatedly emphasized his commitment to pass meaningful health reform. Despite strong opposition from Republicans in Congress, President Obama is showing the mettle he demonstrated throughout the 2008 campaign. He isn’t giving up and he won’t back down. His commitment to insurance reform and extending high quality health coverage, including access to vital clinical preventive services to millions of uninsured Americans shows courage and character.

But the issue of smoking is one where we value quitters. According to press reports President Obama’s recent physical revealed that he continues to struggle to quit smoking. Most smokers have trouble quitting tobacco so the President’s situation is not unusual. It is ironic that the President who has done so much to protect children from tobacco, and through health reform, increase the availability of tobacco cessation therapies, would struggle to win his personal cessation campaign. But Obama is human and difficulty quitting tobacco is an all too common experience among the millions of smokers who try to quit each year.

Writing in the March 1st Christian Science Monitor, Ron Scherer notes that “anti-smoking advocates view the president’s cigarette struggles not so much as a setback, but rather as an opportunity to try to get more Americans to quit. And they place more importance on his desire to snuff out his tobacco usage than on his success in those efforts.”

Now that’s something we should all be able to agree with. That the President has struggled to quit smoking underscores why it is so important that insurance plans, employers, friends and family members do all they can to support and encourage smokers seeking to quit what is all too often a lifelong and life threatening addiction.

A CBS TV News Healthwatch segment (“Up in Smoke”) added important commentary from medical correspondent and physician Jennifer Ashton. Dr. Ashton cautioned that most former smokers find success only after trying to quit multiple times. She urged that smokers take advantage of available treatments including counseling, OTC nicotine replacement products and prescription medications. Ashton said the decision to quit smoking is really “a life or death issue and the single most important thing you can do for your health.”

Good advice for the public…and for our President.

Posted by:
Ripley Forbes
Director, Government Affairs, Partnership for Prevention


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