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Mass. stop-smoking program gets results

BOSTON, Nov. 18 (UPI) -- An effort to wean the poor in Massachusetts off cigarettes is working, with smoking among low-income residents down 26 percent, officials said Wednesday.

The state-funded smoking cessation program began two years ago. It was part of a healthcare reform bill passed in 2006 and is open to all those enrolled in MassHealth, the state insurance program for the poor.

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Officials say they are already seeing the effect of lower smoking rates, including fewer trips to the emergency room and fewer smoking-related heart attacks, The Boston Globe reported. The poor have tended to smoke more than those with higher incomes.

Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said the Massachusetts program should be a national model as Congress debates healthcare reform.

"These findings are extraordinary -- they have major public health implications as Congress is debating healthcare reform," Myers said. "These findings demonstrate that if Congress fully covers tobacco cessation, it has the potential to save literally tens of thousands of lives in the very near future and many more over the long term.''

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