THURSDAY, Jan. 20 (HealthDay News) -- A new report card gives
the U.S. government relatively high marks for advances in treating
people with tobacco-related illnesses, but gives low or failing
grades to most states as their anti-smoking programs falter.
The report, from the American Lung Association, finds most
states sorely lacking in efforts to get people to stop smoking or
help them quit.
"We all can see that public sentiment is turning against smoking," Charles D. Connor, president of the Association, said during a press conference Wednesday.
"However, it's a grave mistake to assume that the shift in public thinking about tobacco means that the public health crisis has ended. It hasn't," he said.
Each year in the United States, 443,000 people die from
illnesses directly related to tobacco use and exposure to
secondhand smoke. This makes tobacco the number one cause of
preventable deaths, Connor said.
Moreover, tobacco-related illness saps the country of more than
$193 billion in health-care costs and lost productivity each year,
"The tobacco companies, meanwhile, aren't relenting in their campaigns of deception," Connor said. "The industry found new ways in 2010 to market it products and target kids."
Connor praised the federal government's efforts to dissuade new
smokers and help current smokers quit.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration began overseeing tobacco
products in 2009. So far, the agency has moved to ban the sale of
cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to minors, to ban candy and
fruit-flavored cigarettes, to prohibit tobacco industry sponsorship
of sports and entertainment events, to take enforcement action
against electronic cigarette markers, and to require larger health
warnings on cigarettes and smokeless tobacco labels.
In addition, the new health care reform law expands programs to
help people quit smoking. Most private health insurers will also
have to offer treatments to help people quit, and under the
Medicaid program, pregnant women will be able to get access to
smoking cessation programs, according to the report.
The American Lung Association report card gave the FDA a 'B' for
its anti-smoking efforts. But the federal government got a 'C' for
failing to cover smoking cessation programs in all federal health
care programs and a 'D' for not raising the federal tax on
cigarettes. The government also racked up another 'D' for not
ratifying the international Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
And don't even get the ALA started on state lawmakers.
"Most of our states are failing miserably when it comes to combating tobacco-caused disease," Connor said. "Despite collecting millions of dollars, and in some cases billions, in tobacco settlement dollars and excise taxes, most states are investing only pennies of those dollars to help smokers quit and keep kids from starting," he said.
The report faults states for using revenues from tobacco taxes
and the tobacco settlement money to balance their budgets instead
of using that money to fund anti-smoking and quit-smoking programs.
In addition, only six states raised tobacco taxes last year.
The report card grades include an 'F' for 40 states and the
District of Columbia for not funding tobacco control programs at
recommended levels and an 'F' for 37 states for not making smoking
cessation programs part of Medicaid.
No state received straight A's. Arkansas, Montana, Maine,
Oklahoma and Vermont were the only states to get all passing
grades, although Oklahoma had straight Ds. Alabama, Kentucky,
Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and
West Virginia were given F's across the board.
Commenting on the report, Danny McGoldrick, vice president for
research at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said that "it
demonstrates that while we have made great progress addressing
tobacco use, we still have a long way to go."
There has to be a continued effort to get states to raise
tobacco taxes, fund quitting programs and pass smoke-free laws, he
"Where the states have really failed is in using their settlement dollars or their tax dollars to fund tobacco prevention programs," McGoldrick said. "In fact, they have been cutting those programs dramatically. We know what happens when you do that: You get more kids smoking, fewer adults trying to quit and smoking rates go up."
For more information on smoking and how to quit, visit the
for Disease Control and Prevention.
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