Sharp increase in Dutch seeking aid to quit smoking

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The demand for help to quit smoking grew explosively in the Netherlands over the past six years. Last year around 40 thousand people asked health insurers VGZ, CZ and Menzis for anti-smoking courses or medication, 12 times more than the 3,200 Dutch who sought such help in 2012, AD reports.

The number of smokers who sought serious hep in quitting last year may still be higher - the three health insurers hold 57 percent of the market and therefore have no insight into all requests for help. 

The Netherlands currently counts 3.1 million smokers, of which 465 thousand are heavy smokers who smoke more than 20 cigarettes per day. In 2001 the Netherlands had 4.5 million smokers, including 1.3 million heavy smokers. According to AD, research showed that 20 to 30 percent of smokers definitely quit after an anti-smoking course, compared to only 5 percent who try to stop by themselves.

The Trimbos addiction institute also noticed that more smokers try to quit every year. Last year 37 percent of Dutch smokers attempted to quit, compared to 34 percent four years earlier. "It is not going fast, but it is good news", Marc Willemsen of the Trimbos Institute said to AD. 

Willemsen believes that there will be a sharp increase in smokers turning to their health insurers for help quitting from January next year. Then smokers no longer have to pay the healthcare deductible of 385 euros for a course or medication. "The few hundred euros is a threshold to call in serious help. Many people cannot afford that", Willemsen said to the newspaper. "That the 385 euros no longer has to be paid can be the last push. You can say: then they have to put the money they normally spend on tobacco into their course, but that's not how addiction works. We now know that it is very difficult to get rid of cigarettes."

According to Willemsen, on average it takes smokers five to seven attempts to quit smoking. Willemsen therefore believes that insurers should reimburse several attempts per year. "The faster the smoker takes the plunge again after an unsuccessful attempt, the better. In the long run, this saves the insurer a lot of costs that it normally spends on health complaints from smokers."

In 2017 Trimbos and Statistics Netherlands did a study among 40 thousand Dutch and found that one in four heavy smokers die before retirement. Their life expectancy on average is 13 years shorter than that of non-smokers. Moderate smokers' life expectancy is 9 years shorter.