Gov. Rauner did something incredibly short-sighted when he recently suspended $26 million in social services and public health grants, including $3.1 million allocated to the Illinois Tobacco Quitline. 

Every state in our country has a Quitline, but now, Illinois is the only state without a lifeline for its smokers. This free resource answered more than 90,000 calls last year, connecting smokers with registered nurses, respiratory therapists and certified tobacco-treatment counselors to provide support, day and night. 

While most cessation programs have around a 20-percent success rate, 43 percent of callers to the Illinois Tobacco Quitline have successfully quit smoking. Because this tool is so effective, the Illinois Tobacco Quitline saves the state money. 

Many Quitline callers are Medicaid recipients whose tobacco-related disease treatments cost the state nearly $1 billion each year. Another 27 percent of callers have no health insurance at all. 

In fact, the Illinois Tobacco Quitline isn’t even funded through taxpayer dollars. It receives money through the Tobacco Master Settlement — an agreement that the tobacco industry will pay states $10 billion annually for the indefinite future. 

Illinois received $265 million for this fiscal year to support programs like the Quitline. Gov. Rauner, do what’s right and restore funding to the Illinois Tobacco Quitline. More than 16,600 Illinoisans died from tobacco-related illnesses last year. We can’t let this number climb higher.

Judy Rospenda