Although COVID-19 was a top health story in 2020, another disturbing health trend also emerged with fewer people quitting smoking. The health dangers of smoking cigarettes have been well-documented since the U.S. surgeon general’s groundbreaking report in 1964.
The number of adults who smoke was down to an estimated 14 percent in 2019, and cigarette sales steadily continued declining year after year until 2020, when they increased slightly. 1-800-QUIT-NOW, a national portal connecting callers to local quitlines, experienced a 27% drop in call volume. The portal operated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that promotes state quitline services received 190,000 fewer calls in 2020 than in 2019, its lowest annual volume since 2007.
Nearly half a million deaths annually
Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the U.S. According to the CDC, cigarettes cause more than 480,000 deaths a year. They affect almost every organ in the body, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Furthermore, smoking is a risk factor for severe COVID-19. In addition, many smokers have pre-existing lung conditions that leave them more vulnerable to getting the flu, pneumonia, or bronchitis.
The good news for those who smoke is that it is never too late to recommit to a healthy lifestyle. Experts advise that the best way to stop smoking is to talk to your health care provider, make a plan and explore strategies that will help you stick to it. Your primary care physician can direct you to many of the support resources available, including behavioral therapy and other treatment options.
How your FSA or HSA can help
That’s where your FSA or HSA comes in. Co-pays and deductibles for primary care and behavioral therapy appointments are eligible expenses covered by flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs), as well as many health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs). So are prescription medications. In addition, smoking cessation program costs and over-the-counter nicotine gum and patches are eligible for reimbursement from an FSA or HSA.
Quality of life improves quickly
Once you stop smoking, health and quality of life improve quickly. As early as one day after the last cigarette, your risk of heart disease begins to diminish. The sense of taste and smell grows more enhanced after two smoke-free days. The lungs start to heal within a month, and the health benefits of smoking cessation accumulate exponentially as the months and years pass.
Quitting smoking can be challenging, but the rewards are life-changing. Let your FSA or HSA help you afford support resources that are eligible for reimbursement by these accounts, including primary care visits, prescriptions, and over-the-counter smoking cessation aids.
By taking action now, smokers can lessen the possibility that smoking-related illnesses will impact their well-being for many years to come.
DataPath, Inc. creates cloud-based solutions for FSA, HRA, and HSA third party administration.