Medicare is taking a step toward helping seniors quit their cigarette habit by offering counseling services in addition to the quit-smoking drugs it already provides. The goal is to prevent the many diseases associated with cigarette smoking in the 4.5 million Medicare beneficiaries who smoke. Studies show that smokers who quit, even after decades of cigarette use, can lengthen their lifespans and enjoy better health.

Health maintenance organizations have offered such services for years with positive results. Now Medicare will join the trend toward preventative healthcare by covering the cost of quit-smoking services. Some of the costly smoking-related diseases that Medicare hopes to prevent are cancer, heart disease, poor lung function, gastric influx and osteoporosis, among others.