November 16, 2022

‘Great American Smokeout’ sets stage for quitting tobacco, vaping; resources available to Purdue community


The Great American Smokeout – hosted annually on the third Thursday of November (Nov. 17 this year) by the American Cancer Society – encourages Americans to quit smoking tobacco and vaping (using nicotine-containing e-cigarettes) or choose a quit date in the not-too-distant future. Purdue faculty, staff and students have several resources available to help them do so.

Quitting the use of tobacco has multiple health and financial benefits, which supports the physical health and financial wellness pillars of the Healthy Boiler Program. In fact, population health statistics – provided by Vital Incite – for the Purdue University population reflect the following comparisons between those identified as smokers and not:

  • Tobacco users have higher risk and spend on average $1,895 per year more in health care costs compared to a nontobacco user. This is in addition to the cost of tobacco.
  • Tobacco users have lower engagement in primary care but have higher ER utilization and are more likely to visit the ER more than once compared to nontobacco users.
  • Tobacco users have a higher prevalence for depression and are less compliant with medication adherence.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that tobacco is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death in the United States. And although COVID-19 cases have decreased, it’s still impacting individuals, which means the science around COVID-19 and tobacco use continues to develop. Purdue’s College of Pharmacy shares the following information:

  • Smoking or vaping increases the risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • Compared with nonsmokers, estimates say, smokers are twice as likely to have serious complications from COVID-19.
  • The severity of difficulties around underlying health issues that predispose someone to COVID-19 complications, such as asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes, immune disorders and other chronic diseases, is increased by smoking and vaping.

More information on how smokers are more susceptible to and suffer more severe effects from COVID-19 (and the flu) is available on the Quit Now Indiana website.

“If you smoke or vape, the best thing you can do for your health, both now and in the future, is to quit,” says Karen Hudmon, professor of pharmacy practice in the College of Pharmacy. “People who get help are more likely to quit, and those who also use a quit-smoking medication increase their chances further. 

Aside from protecting your health, Hudmon said that there are many other important reasons to quit smoking, with one being the cost.

“Nationally, cigarettes are now $8 per pack, and people who smoke a pack a day spend approximately $2,920 annually on cigarettes — plus any tobacco-related health costs,” Hudmon says. “Ask yourself, ‘What else could I do with that money?’”

Tobacco cessation resources available

Individualized counseling is available via Purdue University Pharmacy (faculty, staff and students) and through health coaches at the Center for Healthy Living (CHL) on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus, the CHL at Purdue Northwest and the Campus Health Clinic at Purdue Fort Wayne (benefits-eligible employees and dependents covered on a Purdue health plan).

Worksite health pharmacists are also available at the West Lafayette CHL to discuss which products would be best based on individual wants and needs.

To schedule with a specially trained pharmacist who can prescribe all quit-smoking medications at the Purdue University Pharmacy, call 765-494-1374.

Regardless of campus location, Purdue health coaches can provide assistance for all benefits-eligible employees through telephonic tobacco cessation coaching.

For tobacco cessation options specific to regional campuses, visit their respective websites:

“Having the telephonic and in-person counseling options for tobacco cessation available to our employees and students reiterates the importance of and our dedication to helping our population improve their overall health and wellness, which is the foundation of Purdue’s Healthy Boiler Program,” says Candace Shaffer, senior director of benefits in Human Resources. “We are aligned to ensure easy access and availability of resources to help those who currently smoke get the support, tools and information needed to successfully quit smoking.”  

Purdue employees and students are also encouraged to contact the Indiana Tobacco Quitline (1-800-QUIT-NOW) to enroll in their quit-smoking program. “Quit Now Indiana,” which is a free resource that is available seven days a week for all residents of Indiana, is provided by the Indiana State Department of Health.

Additionally, a free mobile program focused on helping young people ages 13 to 24 years quit vaping is available. “This is Quitting,” provided by Truth Initiative, incorporates messages from other young people who have attempted to or successfully quit e-cigarettes. To enroll in “This is Quitting,” Indiana teens and young adults can text “INDIANA” to 88709.

Parents can text “QUIT” to 202-899-7550 to sign up to receive text messages designed for parents of youth who vape. The free digital quit smoking platform – BecomeAnEX – offers comprehensive web and mobile tools for parents/adults to help a child quit vaping. Via BecomeAnEx, individuals can also find assistance for themselves. To get started, individuals can create a custom plan for a tobacco-free life for themselves or learn how to help their child or young adult quit here.    

The CDC’s Tips from Former Smokers website shares additional helpful resources such as stories, videos, information on how smoking affects illnesses and conditions and more.

Purdue insurance coverage

“The Purdue health plans’ coverage makes it even easier and more convenient to pair tobacco-cessation products with health coaching or counseling as part of a quit plan, improving the likelihood of success,” Shaffer says.

All Purdue health plans (Premier CDHP, Standard CDHP, Limited CDHP) for faculty and staff cover tobacco cessation products with no copay as long as the employee has a prescription for them (including over-the-counter items). Cessation products do not require prior authorization and employees are allowed up to a 168-day supply (24 weeks) of each product in one year of treatment. For a list of covered tobacco-cessation products, visit the Tobacco Cessation webpage. Some Indiana pharmacists, including pharmacists at the Purdue Pharmacy, now can prescribe these medications.

Purdue health plans for domestic and international students as well as for West Lafayette graduate staff also cover all tobacco cessation medications (brand name and generic). Cessation products do not require prior authorization, and there are no supply limits. Coverage information for student insurance plans is found at Questions should be directed to UnitedHealthcare Student Resources at 888-224-4754.

“People who use medication can triple their chances of quitting for good,” Hudmon says.

According to Hudmon, for most patients, she would recommend those that have been proven to have superior effectiveness, such as varenicline (generic Chantix) or a combination of the nicotine patch plus the nicotine gum or lozenge. 

“With this option, the patch provides a consistent level of nicotine, and the patient can also use the gum or the lozenge as needed, to manage situational cravings,” Hudmon says.

Tobacco-user additional premium

Individuals who use tobacco will have the option of completing an approved tobacco cessation program via the resources listed above to avoid the $1,000 per person annual tobacco-user additional premium charge that will apply to Purdue health plan premiums for faculty and staff. Medical plans for students and West Lafayette graduate staff do not have an additional premium. Premiums for term life, universal life and critical illness insurance available to faculty, staff and West Lafayette graduate staff also are based in part on whether or not an employee (and spouse, if covered) has used tobacco in the last 12 months, and those premiums may be affected as well.

  • 2022 plan year: Certificates for programs completed in 2022 submitted before the end of the year will waive the additional medical plan premium for the remainder of the 2022 plan year only.
  • 2023 plan year: Certificates for programs completed after January 1, 2023, and submitted by March 31, 2023, will waive the additional medical plan premium for all of 2023. Completed certificates submitted after March 31, 2023, will waive the additional premium for the remainder of the 2023 plan year only.

For more information about the additional premium, visit the Purdue Medical Plan Tobacco-User Additional Premium: Questions and Answers webpage.

Upcoming Healthy Boiler wellness program – ‘Tobacco Cessation’

For those who are ready to quit smoking or who are thinking about quitting, the upcoming Healthy Boiler wellness program – “Tobacco Cessation” – is a great resource. The program, which meets from noon to 1 p.m. ET on Thursdays from Dec. 1 to Jan. 19, will teach strategies to help individuals quit tobacco and stay quit. The class will meet for six weeks: three weeks in December (two weeks off for the holidays) and three weeks in January.

Attending this workshop will count as an approved tobacco cessation program, resulting in a waiver of the 2023 tobacco-user additional premium, if the completed program certificate is submitted by March 31, 2023.

Those interested in should register by Nov. 23 via the Healthy Boiler Portal. The registration link can be found under the “Healthy Boiler Workshops” section on the portal’s homepage. Hover over the “Tobacco Cessation” square and hit “Submit” to register. Healthy Boiler workshops are free to all benefits-eligible faculty and staff and dependents covered on a Purdue medical plan.

More information

Questions about resources available and tobacco-user additional premium waiver should be directed to Human Resources at 765-494-2222, toll-free at 877-725-0222 or via email at

Information on Purdue’s smoke-free campus policy is available here.

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