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Smokers with health insurance now get less help from Wisconsin's Tobacco Quit Line

Smokers with health insurance will get less help from Wisconsin's Tobacco Quit Line starting today.

And that's just one of the reductions being made in the state's stop-smoking programs.

Their funding was cut 55 percent for the next two years, even though the state cigarette tax went up by another 75 cents a pack last month.

The anti-smoking efforts will get almost $7 million instead of $15 million, to help cover the state's overall budget deficit.

Uninsured smokers and those on Medicaid will still get the same number of follow-up counseling calls and nicotine patches from the state's Quit Line.

But those with insurance will only get one follow-up call instead of four.

Health officials say the insured will still be helped but they'll have to make the follow-up calls instead of help-line personnel.

Also, the budget calls for fewer anti-smoking ads, less training for smoking cessation workers, and less funding to get minorities to kick the habit.

Maureen Busalacchi of Smoke-Free Wisconsin says the funds are being cut at a time when smokers need them most, especially those motivated to quit by the tax hikes, and the statewide public indoor smoking ban that begins next July.

Rep. Jeff Smith, D-Eau Claire, has a bill to restore $2 million in stop-smoking funds, by rolling back a recent increase in what tobacco sellers get to collect the cigarette tax.