Federal government took big steps to stem smoking, while most states fell short
TUESDAY, Jan. 12 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. government took some important steps last year to prevent tobacco-related disease and death, but most states got a failing grade and 10 made alarming cuts to their tobacco control programs, a new report shows.
According to the Tobacco Control 2009 report, released Tuesday by the American Lung Association, the important actions taken by the federal government included giving authority to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products and more than doubling the federal cigarette tax, from 39 cents to $1.01 per pack of 20 cigarettes.
The report card gave the following grades to the federal government:
"Our leaders in Washington have made a strong start in confronting the tobacco epidemic and taking steps that ultimately will save millions of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars for the American economy. Ending the epidemic, however, will require more hard work," Charles D. Connor, president and CEO of the American Lung Association, said in a news release from the association.
But he added that "political leaders in the states need to stand up to the tobacco industry and enact policies proven to reduce the devastating death and disease caused by tobacco use."
In an effort to boost revenues to help cope with record deficits, 14 states and the District of Columbia raised cigarette taxes in 2009. However, 10 states and the District of Columbia sharply reduced funding for tobacco control and prevention programs.
For example, Wisconsin increased its cigarette tax by 75 cents but cut funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs by more than half. New Hampshire increased its cigarette tax by 45 cents but didn't spend a single state dollar on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, the lung association said.
The report also found a dramatic slowing in the pace of states passing comprehensive smoke-free air laws.
"Increasing tobacco taxes and requiring smoke-free workplaces are two important steps in reducing the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. But that is still not enough. Comprehensive cessation programs must also be made available to support them in quitting," Mary H. Partridge, chair of the national board of the lung association, said in the news release.
No states received straight "As" on the association's report card, but six states received all "Fs" -- Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. Here's what the report card said about the states and the District of Columbia:
Smoking-related disease is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, killing more than 393,000 people each year and costing the economy more than $193 billion. Another 50,000 Americans die from exposure to secondhand smoke.
"The failure of the federal government and each state government to get all "A" grades for enacting strong and effective tobacco control laws comes at a critical time," the lung association said in its news release. "Tobacco control policies are extraordinarily popular. But the tobacco industry is not letting up on its aggressive marketing and promotion strategies to spur increased smoking. Until elected officials overcome their fears of standing up to the tobacco industry, hundreds of thousands of lives will be tragically lost and billions of dollars will continue to be wasted."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about the health effects of tobacco.
-- Robert Preidt
SOURCE: American Lung Association, news release, Jan. 12, 2010
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