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Tobacco Cessation and Diabetes: Why It Matters

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects how the body metabolizes food into energy by destabilizing blood sugar levels. It is the 7th leading cause of death in the US, with more than 25 million adults diagnosed with diabetes. Type 2 diabetes (T2D) makes up 90 to 95% of all diagnosed diabetes and is the type that is most impacted by lifestyle choices. But there are habit changes that can help to prevent and even reverse diabetic risk. One of the biggest preventable risk factors for diabetics is tobacco smoking. It costs $3,929 in additional healthcare utilization costs for each diabetic patient who smokes.

Smokers also have a much greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes than nonsmokers. In fact, they are 30 to 40% more likely. Smoking can also make it harder to manage T2D since nicotine can lessen the effectiveness and regulation of insulin. Studies have shown that insulin can start to become more effective at lowering blood sugar levels just 8 weeks after a smoker quits.

To investigate the impact of T2D on tobacco users in the Vincere Quit Program, we pulled de-identified claims data from a self-insured client and learned that the employees who participated in our program were much higher risk than the average employee benchmark. The employee benchmark for Medical Claims paid out for “Diabetes Per Member Per Month“ (PMPM) was $8.58 for this organization. However, of the participants who smoked, the Diabetes PMPM was $21.78. This is more than a 150% increase in Medical Claims paid. As mentioned above, we saw similar numbers for hypertension, back pain, and depression. This confirmed the urgency of having a strong smoking cessation program.

The single most important thing a self-insured entity can do to improve the health of their costliest members is to target the chronic care issue that exacerbates and cuts across all of these disease states: smoking (even moreso than weight or diabetes).

At Vincere Health, we respect each participant as the author of their habit change journey. Whether they arrive at our door with a smoking or vaping habit, poor sleep, unmanaged stress, or a lack of social support or resources, we stand ready to help them move the boulder that is blocking them from healthier living. Addressing tobacco use as a connected conditions gateway provides an opportunity to reprogram healthier coping tools by targeting the tip of the chronic conditions iceberg. This is even more important for diabetics.

We recognize the whole-body connection between one health condition and another and reinforce the ripple effect between one lifestyle change and another. No single health choice exists in a vacuum, and our flexible programs, smart tech, and experienced coaches are well-equipped to both guide and follow our participants’ paths to comprehensive well-being.


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