On Great American Smokeout Day, Human Services & Health Commissioners Encourage People Who Smoke to Get Help Quitting


         (TRENTON) - New Jersey Human Services Commissioner Sarah Adelman and Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli marked the Great American Smokeout on Thursday by encouraging people who smoke to reach out to their healthcare provider and take advantage of state services for help quitting.

New Jersey’s Medicaid program – NJ FamilyCare – does not require individuals to get prior approval from their health plan before they obtain tobacco cessation medications, and the plans cover all major tobacco treatment medications and services.

“Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in New Jersey, leading to chronic lung disease, heart disease, stroke and cancer,” Commissioner Adelman said. “Tobacco use kills 11,800 New Jerseyans each year, but today is a great time to take the first step toward a healthier lifestyle. Healthcare providers and NJ FamilyCare can help New Jerseyans take this step every day of the year. We are here to help.”

“The Department of Health has worked collaboratively with the Department of Human Services to streamline policies related to accessing tobacco cessation resources and has also funded awareness campaigns to alert New Jersey residents of services covered by NJ FamilyCare,” Commissioner Persichilli said. “While the use of traditional cigarettes has declined in recent years, the introduction of electronic nicotine delivery systems, most commonly known as e-cigarettes, has been on a steep incline, particularly among our young residents. These e-cigarettes are just as addictive as traditional cigarettes are, and the many tobacco cessation services and products that NJ FamilyCare covers are also applicable to users of e-cigarettes. The New Jersey Quitline and the 11 Quit Centers located throughout the state are funded through the Department of Health’s Office of Tobacco Control and Prevention.”

Commissioner Adelman also noted that the Department’s Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services has implemented a program to help individuals with mental health and addiction concerns get smoking cessation treatment. The Division has been urging behavioral health programs to engage clients and refer them into smoking cessation treatment with a Quit Center for counseling and medication, including free nicotine replacement treatment, if they qualify. 

“We all share the goal of helping New Jerseyans live healthier lives, and a major part of that work is addressing use of tobacco products,” Commissioner Adelman said. “Individuals with mental health and substance use disorders smoke and use tobacco products at a much greater rate than the general population, and they experience greater morbidity and mortality as a result, but help is available.”

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 people who smoke can commit to pursuing a smoke-free lifestyle. Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and the world. Overall mortality of the average person who smokes is three times that of those who never smoked, and rates of cancer, respiratory, and vascular disease are also higher in people who smoke.

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 disorders consume almost 40 percent of all cigarettes sold in the United States.  Not only do they smoke at much higher rates than the general public, but they also smoke more heavily. 
  • Smoking contributes to the increased mortality of individuals with serious mental illness, who die as much as 25 years earlier than the average American.
  • Individuals with a substance use disorder have a harder time quitting tobacco when using opioids and other drugs, but quitting smoking improves their long term recovery from substance use.