A smoking cessation program for state Medicaid recipients is getting underway in Kentucky.

Lawmakers appropriated $1.5 million per year for the program, which will be matched by federal funds. Tonya Chang of the American Heart Association says the money will go a long way.

“Medicaid spends about $500 million treating tobacco-related illnesses, so over time, they will enjoy some health care savings from this program,” she said.

Chang says the program, which will provide both counseling and medications for smokers who want to quit, is strictly voluntary. Business and health advocates in recent years have been pushing hard for passage of the program.