Assemblymember Holden’s Tobacco Cessation Legislation Passes Key Committee

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Sacramento, CA – Assemblymember Chris Holden’s Tobacco Cessation Legislation, AB 1696, passed the Assembly Health Committee today with a 16-1 vote. The bill will now head to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Just last week, the legislature passed sweeping tobacco control legislation that increases California's smoking age to 21, and regulates electronic cigarettes as tobacco products.

AB 1696 would help California’s neediest residents quit smoking and avoid a lifetime of health problems. The bill requires tobacco cessation medications, counseling, and assessments to be covered for Medi-Cal patients. Besides the detrimental health effects, smoking takes an $18.1 billion toll on California annually, according to a University of California, San Francisco study.

“Smoking continues to be the leading preventable cause of the death in the United States” said Assemblymember Chris Holden. “We have an opportunity to save lives and money with this bill.”

“The American Heart Association is proud to co-sponsor AB 1696 to ensure that California’s most vulnerable will be able to access tobacco cessation programs, which have been shown to greatly increase the success rate for those trying to quit using tobacco,” said Dr. Diane Sobkowicz, Board President for the Sacramento division of the American Heart Association and Director of the Women's Heart Program at Sutter Heart & Vascular Institute. “Our state spends $3.5 billion each year treating tobacco-related diseases through Medi-Cal. Studies have shown that every $1 spent on cessation program costs results in $3 in medical savings, a return on investment that would substantially reduce our state’s tobacco-related medical expenditures.”

California is traditionally viewed as a leader when it comes to regulating smoking and tobacco, but the American Lung Association gave California an “F” score in the category of tobacco prevention control and spending, and a “D” in the category of access to cessation services. They specifically recommend expanding access to tobacco cessation treatments and services for Medi-Cal recipients.

“California used to be a leader in tobacco control with programming that supported a healthier lifestyle, but with tobacco companies outspending the California Tobacco Control Program 15 to 1, more work needs to be done,” said Holden.