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Press Release

Smokers Have Greater Incentive to Quit, as Big Tobacco Tax Hike Goes into Effect Today

Independence Blue Cross Offers Resources to Quit Smoking for a Healthier Lifestyle

Philadelphia, PA - April 1, 2009 - The federal tax on a pack of cigarettes has gone up to just over a dollar with the increase that went into effect today, and might be just the push smokers need to kick the habit. Independence Blue Cross (IBC) offers members help in many ways to stop using tobacco products.

Quitting smoking not only saves money, it saves lives. Approximately one in five adults in the United States smokes cigarettes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says cigarette smoking results in an estimated 443,000 premature deaths each year, and costs the economy $193 billion in health care expenses and lost time from work. Smoking is also widely known to cause or contribute to heart disease, certain cancers, and lung disease.

The federal tax on cigarettes, which had been 39 cents per pack, was raised 62 cents today to $1.01 - the biggest cigarette tax increase in history. The tax will help fund national health care programs for children. Pennsylvania adds another $1.63 in state taxes on a pack of cigarettes, which means a typical pack now costs close to $6.50. Smokers in the state who quit a pack-a-day habit would save about $2,370 per year.

The federal tax on smokeless tobacco increased today from 19 cents per pound to 50 cents per pound. Smokeless tobacco is just as addictive as cigarettes. Those who use smokeless tobacco are at increased risk for other serious health conditions such as tooth decay, gum disease, and cancers of the lip, tongue, cheeks, and throat.

"Sadly, people choose to smoke or chew tobacco despite their awareness of the benefits of quitting - breathing easier, suffering fewer serious illnesses, and living a longer life," said Dr. Esther Nash, senior medical director, Independence Blue Cross. "But successful attempts to quit are often inspired by a strong motivator, like a personal health scare. We're hoping the tax hike pushes more smokers to seek help quitting and we stand ready to help."

Independence Blue Cross helps members kick the habit through:

  • Reimbursement of up to $200. To help members age 18 or older stop smoking, IBC will reimburse them for completing an approved tobacco cessation program. If the program costs less than $200, a member may apply the difference toward reimbursement for nicotine replacement products, prescription smoking cessation medication, or other aids.

    To earn the $200 reimbursement, IBC members may enroll in programs like SmokeStoppers® or the American Lung Association's Freedom From Smoking® Program. Most programs include help in managing barriers to quitting, like handling stress and avoiding weight gain. Members can also choose a program offered by a network hospital in their area. Tobacco cessation programs also support individuals who want to quit using smokeless tobacco.

  • Online support. IBC also offers members free online education modules at www.ibxpress.com to help them quit smoking or make other lifestyle changes that improve health. The modules routinely begin with a short survey about smoking habits, current lifestyle, and general health. Based on answers provided, the online program creates a personalized wellness plan, complete with follow-up information and support to help members stay on track.

  • Free counseling. IBC also offers pregnant members enrolled in IBC's Baby BluePrints® program free counseling by phone to help them quit smoking. IBC offers Medicare members a similar option.

  • Gift card incentives. Earlier this year, IBC launched Healthy LifestylesSM Rewards, an incentive program to encourage steps toward better health. Employers who add this program to their health plans through IBC reward employees for healthy behaviors. Non-smokers who participate in this program can earn gift card rewards for taking a tobacco-free pledge, while smokers can earn rewards for completing a tobacco cessation program.

For more information about quitting, IBC members can call the Health Resource Center at 1-800-ASK-BLUE.

Non-IBC members who use tobacco products can find plenty of online resources to help them quit. They can also order a free copy of "Clearing the Air," a self-study booklet from the National Cancer Institute with information on what to expect, avoiding weight gain, and fighting the urge to smoke. Call 1-800-4-CANCER.

About Independence Blue Cross

Independence Blue Cross is a leading health insurer in southeastern Pennsylvania. Nationwide, Independence Blue Cross and its affiliates provide coverage to nearly 3.4 million people. For more than 70 years, Independence Blue Cross has offered high-quality health care coverage tailored to meet the changing needs of members, employers, and health care professionals. Independence Blue Cross's HMO and PPO health care plans have consistently received the highest ratings from the National Committee for Quality Assurance.

Independence Blue Cross is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.