Anti-Tobacco Push by U.S. States `Failing Miserably,' Lung Group Says
Most states’ anti-smoking efforts are “failing miserably” because they were underfunded last year and officials spent new cigarette-tax revenue on unrelated programs, the American Lung Association said.
Tobacco-prevention programs in 40 states and the District of Columbia earned grades of “F” in a report issued today by the Washington-based group because they received less than half the funding recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Tobacco use costs the U.S. economy almost $193 billion a year in health-care expenses and lost productivity, according to the report, the ninth in a series of annual surveys by the lung association. Most states’ anti-smoking scores lagged behind those of the federal government, which didn’t receive any failing grades in four categories and earned a “B” for the Food and Drug Administration’s implementation of a 2009 law that restricts tobacco marketing.
“Most of our states are failing miserably when it comes to combating tobacco-caused disease,” Charles Connor, the American Lung Association’s president and chief executive officer, said yesterday on a conference call. “Despite collecting millions of dollars -- and in some cases, billions -- in tobacco settlement dollars and excise taxes, most states are investing only pennies on those same dollars to help smokers quit and keep kids from starting.”
Smokers pay a federal excise tax of $1.01, and state taxes, on each pack of 20 cigarettes they buy. The average state cigarette tax last year was $1.45 a pack, according to the report.
New York and Washington were among five states that scored “A” grades from for their cigarette taxes, and 24 states that earned an “A” for smoking bans in restaurants and other public venues.
Those two states were still among the 40 that received failing grades on tobacco-prevention spending, and 37 that scored an “F” on smoking-cessation coverage for Medicaid recipients and state employees.
Americans for Tax Reform, based in Washington, and the Alexandria, Virginia-based National Taxpayers Union are among groups that have fought tobacco taxes, saying they harm small retailers and low-income smokers. Cigarette taxes “increase smuggling, create dangerous black markets and deplete state coffers of revenue,” the National Taxpayers Union said Jan. 7 in a statement on its website.
In the lung association report, none of the 50 states earned grades of “A” in all four policy areas covered: cigarette taxes, smoking bans, tobacco-prevention spending and cessation coverage. Arkansas, Montana, Maine, Oklahoma and Vermont were the only states to receive passing grades in all four areas.
More than 20 percent of adults in the U.S., or 46 million people, smoke cigarettes, according to the Atlanta-based CDC. Smoking is the biggest cause of preventable death in the U.S., killing about 443,000 people a year.
The 2009 tobacco law bars companies led by Altria Group Inc. and Reynolds American Inc. from marketing tobacco to young people. It also bans the use of the words “mild,” “light” and “low-tar” on cigarette packs, and requires all packs to carry graphic warning-labels starting next year.
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