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States failing miserably in their tobacco control efforts, lung association says

January 20, 2011|By Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times

Individual states are failing "miserably" in their tobacco control efforts, trailing even the attempts of the federal government, according to the American Lung Assn.'s State of Tobacco Control 2010 report released Thursday. While the federal government has begun implementing the tobacco control policies made possible by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gives the Food and Drug Administration new powers to regulate tobacco, states have taken little new action to prevent or control smoking, instead diverting the vast majority of antismoking funds available under tobacco settlements to address general budget deficits instead.

That can clearly be considered an unwise use of money. Every year, 443,000 Americans die from tobacco-related illnesses and secondhand smoke exposure, making tobacco the leading cause of preventable death. It costs the economy more than $193 billion annually in healthcare costs and lost productivity. In California, where more than 4 million people smoke, there are more than 36,000 deaths each year directly attributable to smoking, more than are due to alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illicit drugs, murders and suicides combined.

The association graded the states and the federal government in four major areas: regulating  tobacco products; prevention and wellness; taxes; and smoke-free laws. No state earned all A's. Only Arkansas, Montana, Maine, Oklahoma and Vermont received all passing grades, although Oklahoma barely passed with all Ds. Eight states -- Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia -- received all Fs.

Forty states received Fs for spending less than 50% of the amount recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on prevention and control programs. Only Alaska and North Dakota received A's.

Only five states qualified for an A grade on taxes by imposing a tax of at least $2.90 per package. Six states raised taxes in 2010, but did not increase funds to help low-income smokers quit.

Kansas was the only state that passed new smoke-free laws in 2010, bringing the number of states with such laws to 27. The pace of new laws has declined since 2006-07, when 16 states had done so.

The federal government, in contrast, undertook major activities in 2010 that included: healthcare legislation that greatly expanded access to tobacco cessation treatments, including requiring private insurers to offer quit-smoking treatments; giving all pregnant women enrolled in Medicaid access to such treatments; new legislation to restrict access to tobacco products by children, to end misleading health descriptors for tobacco products and to require much more graphic health warnings on cigarette packages and smokeless tobacco products. The FDA will also exercise new controls over electronic cigarettes. The association did, however, give the government a D for failure to ratify the Framework  Convention on Tobacco Control, an international treaty.

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