State of Tobacco Control: Commit to Eliminate Death and Disease from Tobacco

(January 22, 2014)

America needs to renew its commitment to eliminate tobacco-caused illness and death. That’s the key message of the American Lung Association’s “State of Tobacco Control 2014” report released today. Less than a week after the new Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health which warns 5.6 million of today’s youth will die from tobacco use unless action is taken, the Lung Association’s “State of Tobacco Control 2014,” issues an urgent call to action to policymakers across the country to reverse their present course and commit to eliminating tobacco-caused death and disease.

“The 2014 Surgeon General’s report provides irrefutable evidence that elected officials hold the key to ending death and disease caused by tobacco use,” said Harold Wimmer, American Lung Association National President and CEO. ‘“State of Tobacco Control 2014” provides the blueprint to our nation’s policymakers on how they can save millions of lives from lung cancer, COPD and other tobacco-caused death and disease,” Wimmer added.

Fifty years after the first Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health was issued on January 11, 1964, which linked smoking to lung cancer, COPD and other diseases for the first time, these diseases are still killing over 480,000 Americans each year.

“Despite strides in reducing smoking rates in America by half in the last 50 years, tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and illness in the U.S., including lung cancer, the number one cancer killer of both men and women in America,” said Wimmer. “The Surgeon General’s 2014 report is the clarion call that our nation cannot let another 50 years of inaction occur.”

The Lung Association’s “State of Tobacco Control 2014,” our 12th annual report, tracks yearly progress on key tobacco control policies at the federal and state level, assigning grades based on whether laws protect Americans from the enormous toll tobacco use takes on lives and the economy. The 2014 report also asks Americans to join the American Lung Association in renewing their commitment to fighting tobacco use and to help make tobacco history.

“The American Lung Association was there with Surgeon General Luther L. Terry when he announced his report in 1964, sounding the alarm on smoking as the preeminent threat to America’s health, and we have been a leader in the fight against tobacco for the last 50 years,” added Wimmer. “Reducing smoking is the most effective way to prevent lung cancer, which kills more men and women in America than any other cancer.”

Federal Government Takes One Step Forward, Two Steps Back in 2013

The federal government took a few steps forward in 2013 after a truly dismal performance in last year’s report. The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued its report finding that menthol cigarettes are more likely to hook new youth users, and make it harder for smokers to quit. However, the Obama Administration failed to release a proposed rule that would give FDA authority over all tobacco products and Congress failed to advance legislation to increase the federal cigarette tax, or tax all tobacco products at a rate equivalent to the cigarette tax rate. The failure of the Administration to give FDA basic authority over all tobacco products has led to the proliferation of unregulated products like little cigars and e-cigarettes.

The failure of the federal and state governments to implement proven policies resulted in 20 million preventable deaths from tobacco use from 1964-2014, including 2.5 million from secondhand smoke. The 2014 Surgeon General’s report found that almost half a million lives are unnecessarily lost each year due to tobacco, as well as up to $333 billion in healthcare costs and lost productivity.

On a more positive note, the second round of the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) highly successful “Tips from Former Smokers” media campaign once again encouraged millions of smokers to seek help quitting.

Get the full federal picture here.

State Governments Once Again Miss Opportunities in 2013

Overall, 2013 was another missed opportunity for states to put in place proven policies to reduce tobacco use and save lives, including smokefree workplace laws, higher tobacco taxes and tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs.

Only two states – Massachusetts and Minnesota – approved significant cigarette tax increases and no state approved a comprehensive smokefree workplace law. There was some small progress on funding for tobacco prevention programs with 11 states increasing funding for these vital programs in 2013. However, 40 states and the District of Columbia received F grades for failing to fund their tobacco prevention programs at even 50 percent of the CDC-recommended level.

Many people still lack access to all the treatments that have been proven to help smokers quit. Only two states provide coverage for all seven FDA-approved medications and three forms of counseling to Medicaid enrollees. Only four states do so for state employees.

Did your state make the grade? Find out here.

Tobacco Industry Stays One Step Ahead

“State of Tobacco Control 2014” finds that the tobacco industry continued its ruthless pursuit of addicting new, young users, and keeping current users from quitting in 2013. This included efforts at the federal and state levels to exempt their products from meaningful public health protections.

The three largest cigarette manufacturers continued their aggressive expansion into tobacco products other than cigarettes in 2013, including smokeless tobacco, cigars and now e-cigarettes. A recent CDC study showed that the use of e-cigarettes among youth doubled from 2011 to 2012. There is no federal oversight of these products, and the e-cigarette industry is pulling its marketing tactics from Big Tobacco’s playbook by using celebrity spokespeople to glamorize its products, making unproven health claims, encouraging smokers to switch instead of quit, and creating candy- and fruit-flavored products to attract youth.

“We are faced with a deep-pocketed, ever-evolving tobacco industry that’s determined to maintain its market share at the expense of our kids and current smokers,” said Wimmer, “State and federal policymakers must battle a changing Big Tobacco and step up to fund programs and enact policies proven to reduce tobacco use.”

Learn more and what you can do to help at www.stateoftobaccocontrol.org.