DEC. 5, 2005 | Arkansas lawmakers seeking information about the state’s tobacco cessation program said they were pleased during a recent visit to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS).
“We know a lot more than we did two years ago,” Rep. Tommy Roebuck of Arkadelphia told UAMS faculty and staff following a tour of cessation program offices at UAMS’ Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health.
UAMS began administering the state’s cessation program in July, and two legislative committees visited Nov. 22 to learn how things were going so far.
College of Public Health Dean James M. Raczynski, Ph.D., and Christine Sheffer, Ph.D., the principle investigator of the tobacco programs, presented the costs, number of tobacco users treated the first four months of operation, and projected outcomes. The bottom line, Sheffer said, is a projected $2.5 million public and private health care and work productivity savings the first year. The savings is a conservative estimate based on treating 2,700 tobacco users, 25 percent of which are expected to be abstinent one year after treatment.
Lawmakers also learned that, under UAMS’ leadership, new statewide cessation programs have been added to the SOSQuitline (telephone-based counseling) without increasing the $840,000 annual cessation budget.
New programs include assistance to employers and their employees as workplaces go smoke free, tobacco education programs for health care providers, and a Web-based cessation program.
The College of Public Health also has incorporated a fax-based referral system for health care providers. Doctors, dentists and other health professionals can refer their patients to the referral program and have a counselor call them at home, discuss cessation options, and refer them to the most appropriate treatment program. The UAMS cessation programs employ master’s degree-level specialists throughout the state either for face-to-face or telephone counseling.
“I think this has helped a whole lot, no question about it,” Roebuck said.
The meeting included lawmakers from the Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER) and the Review Committee of the Arkansas Legislative Council.
Rep. Daryl Pace of Siloam Springs said during the meeting that he was concerned that smokeless tobacco use is not taken as seriously as it should be.
Sheffer agreed that smokeless tobacco deserves the same level of concern as cigarettes, noting that she has spent extra time training counselors on smokeless tobacco cessation. Three percent of those who have sought treatment at UAMS said they use smokeless tobacco. She said it is alarming that smokeless tobacco sales across the country have been increasing 4 percent a year.
Rep. Ray Kidd of Jonesboro said that he and other lawmakers were happy with their visit.
“We all talked about it on the bus ride back to the Capitol,” Kidd said. “We enjoyed the tour and everybody was impressed with the employees there and with the facilities. It just looked like they were doing a heck of a job from what we could tell.”