The initiation of the second-generation Smoking Cessation Program in March last year has helped 18,372 smokers quit smoking and saved nearly NT$170 million (US$5.8 million) in medical costs that would have been paid by the National Health Insurance (NHI), the Bureau of Health Promotion said yesterday.
Cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals and can cause serious health problems, resulting in the deaths of about 20,000 Taiwanese each year, bureau Director-General Chiou Shu-ti (邱淑媞) said, adding that cancer, heart attack, stroke and fetus abnormalities resulting from firsthand and secondhand smoke have incurred a socio-economic burden of up to NT$144.1 billion, a large percentage of which was paid by the NHI.
The smoking cessation program has a cessation aid network that includes more than 2,200 hospitals, clinics and community pharmacies covering 97.6 percent of the nation’s townships, the bureau said.
For each smoker who received outpatient cessation treatment and successfully broke the habit, the NHI saves about NT$5,481 in between the six-month periods before and after quitting.
The economic benefit to society contributed by each habit-breaker over the next 11 to 15 years would be about NT$420,000, the agency’s research data showed.
The agency estimated that 18,372 smokers stopped smoking last year, and a total of NT$169.69 million was cut from short-term NHI expenses, but what is more astounding is the long-term economic benefits that breaking the habit engendered, amounting to up to NT$7.71 billion.
The new program has also alleviated the financial burden of smokers who sought to end their tobacco dependence, the bureau said.
While a medical subsidy of NT$250 had been offered since 2002 to each smoker seeking assistance in quitting the habit, smokers still had to shoulder the burden of extra cessation medication, which costs of between NT$550 and NT$1,250.
However, with the implementation of the program, cessation drugs are now fully covered by the NHI, and smokers pay only 20 percent of the original cost, with low-income households, aborigines from the mountainous areas and offshore islands residents exempt from payment, the health agency added.