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U.S. Flunks on Tobacco Control Report Card
Date:1/13/2009

Lung Association report says feds and most states neglect preventing tobacco-caused illness

TUESDAY, Jan. 13 (HealthDay News) -- A new report card gives the U.S. government consistently failing grades for not protecting Americans from illnesses caused by tobacco.

According to the American Lung Association's State of Tobacco Control 2008, the federal government as well as most states failed to enact critical policy measures, such as higher taxes on cigarettes and to adequately regulate tobacco products.

"Effective tobacco control saves both lives and money," Charles D. Connor, president and chief executive officer of the lung association, said during a Monday afternoon teleconference. "Tobacco use is the number one preventable cause of death in America."

Tobacco-related diseases such as lung cancer and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) kill more than 392,000 Americans each year, and another 50,000 die from exposure to secondhand smoke, Connor said.

"All the while, tobacco companies continue to find new ways to keep smokers hooked," he said. "Each day, the tobacco industry lures 1,100 kids into becoming regular daily smokers. Also each day, 1,000 people die from tobacco-related diseases. It's easy to see from this arithmetic that the tobacco industry is motivated to attract new young replacement smokers."

This year's report card for the federal government was "abysmal," Paul Billings, the association's vice president for national policy and advocacy, said during the teleconference.

Specifically, the federal government got:

  • An "F" for FDA regulation of tobacco products -- the bill authorizing FDA regulation of tobacco products passed overwhelmingly in the U.S. House of Representatives but was not considered by the U.S. Senate before it adjourned for 2008.
  • An "F" for a cigarette tax -- the federal government's cigarette tax is 39 cents per
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