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Costa Rica to expand smoking cessation program to all public hospitals by 2016

September 17, 2014

The Costa Rican Social Security System, or Caja, plans to open smoking cessation clinics in hospitals countrywide to help folks kick the habit. But coming to the aid of smokers really isn’t a choice for health officials, and Caja Executive President María del Rocío Sáenz Madrigal said on Wednesday her agency is legally obligated to provide support by the 2012 Control of Tobacco and its Harmful Effects on Health Law.

The law calls for funding to be made available to clinics from a ₡20 ($0.04) tax on every cigarrete sold.

Under the Caja’s new plan, each hospital must form an interdisciplinary team composed of doctors, psychologists, nutritionists, social workers and nurses, among other specialists.

The Caja currently offers smoking cessation clinics in the capital at Hospital México, San Juan de Dios and Calderón Guardia, and at hospitals in Alajuela and Heredia.

By next year, the agency expects to open clinics in Puntarenas, San Carlos (Alajuela), Guápiles (Limón), Pérez Zeledón (southern San José), Max Peralta (Cartago) and at the National Psychiatric Hospital. Health officials will open clinics in all public hospitals by 2016, Sáenz said at a press conference.

The Caja also will provide educational materials, beds, audiovisual equipment for keynote speakers and medical equipment for respiratory exams.

Smoking cessation programs include eight weekly sessions averaging three hours each, doctor checkups and prescriptions. Participants also receive nutrition and healthy lifestyle information, and therapy sessions for nicotine dependence.

Participation is open to all Caja insurance holders 18 and older who reside in a hospital’s area of coverage.

Caja officials hope to help at least 3,000 smokers each year when all of the clinics are fully operational.

According to Caja figures, 14.2 percent of Ticos older than 20 are active smokers. Smoking is linked to risk factors for the two leading causes of death in Costa Rica: cardiovascular disease and cancer.

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