Nicotine & Tobacco Research: Policies Affecting Medicaid Beneficiaries’ Smoking Cessation Behaviors

No smoking sign made out of people.

Covering smoking cessation medication and counseling through Medicaid may lead to increased attempts to quit smoking. However, additional promotion of these services may be required to have a bigger impact on smoking behaviors.



Smoking rates for Medicaid beneficiaries have remained flat in recent years. Medicaid may support smokers in quitting by covering a broad array of tobacco cessation services without barriers such as copays. This study examines the impact of increasing generosity in Medicaid tobacco cessation coverage policies on smoking and cessation behaviors.


We used 2010 and 2015 National Health Interview Survey data merged with information on state tobacco, Medicaid cessation, and Medicaid eligibility policies to estimate state fixed effects models of cessation medication use, counseling use, quit attempts, and current smoking.


Smokers living in states that cover cessation medications but not counseling services were less likely to use counseling. Smokers were more likely to report having tried to quit in states with higher rates of use of cessation medications among Medicaid beneficiaries. We found no impact of Medicaid policies on use of cessation medications. States that impose copays had higher rates of smoking, while those that require counseling as a condition of receiving medication had lower rates of smoking. Additionally, we found that expanding Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act is associated with decreased smoking prevalence among Medicaid beneficiaries.


Covering cessation counseling may encourage smokers that want to quit to use this service. Promoting the use of cessation medications may improve the likelihood that smokers try to quit. Medicaid coverage of cessation services is an important but incomplete strategy in addressing smoking among low-income populations.


States may be able to improve utilization of cessation counseling by providing Medicaid reimbursement for this service. Encouraging utilization of tobacco cessation medications may help more smokers quit. States should consider how to promote effective cessation methods among clinicians and patients.

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