Tobacco Control – Does Your State Make the Grade?

(January 14, 2011)

Does your state make the grade when it comes to protecting citizens from illnesses caused by tobacco? And how about the federal government – is it making passing, or failing, marks in this critical battle?

The American Lung Association’s comprehensive State of Tobacco Control 2010 report offers an up-to-date guide to policies and programs that have been proven effective in confronting the nation’s tobacco epidemic. It grades the federal government, the District of Columbia and all states on their tobacco control laws and regulations that were in effect as of January 1, 2011.

Does your state make it a priority to help smokers quit their deadly addiction to tobacco? Is it in the vanguard of states imposing higher cigarette taxes, a proven way to prevent kids from starting to smoke? If your state has raised cigarette taxes, is it investing a fair share of the revenue in easing the burden of tobacco on its citizens? And how is our federal government faring putting into place the landmark law Congress passed in 2009 to have the Food and Drug Administration regulate tobacco products?

The answers to all these questions are found in State of Tobacco Control 2010. These answers highlight who’s doing the best job in reducing the devastating toll of tobacco use, and who is failing. The tobacco epidemic has enormous consequences. Each year, 443,000 people die from tobacco-related illnesses and secondhand smoke exposure, making tobacco the leading cause of preventable death in America. In addition, it costs the economy more than $193 billion in healthcare costs and lost productivity.

You can read the entire report or focus on your own state, but here are a few excerpts from this year’s report to provide a glimpse of progress – or the lack of it – in the fight against tobacco-caused disease:

  • The federal government got all passing grades, but no “A’s.” “President Obama and our leaders in the 111th Congress enacted what will be regarded as the strongest tobacco control policies thus far in American history,” American Lung Association President and CEO Charles D. Connor said.
  • The federal government’s top grade of “B” came for the Food and Drug Administration’s putting into effect landmark legislation to curb tobacco marketing and sales to kids, to end misleading cigarette labels and to require larger health warnings on smokeless tobacco products.
  • Among the states, only five – Arkansas, Maine, Montana, Oklahoma and Vermont – got all passing grades although Oklahoma barely passed with straight Ds, and most states flunked outright. “Sadly, most of our states are failing miserably when it comes to combating tobacco-caused disease,” Connor said. “Despite collecting millions of dollars – and in some cases billions – in tobacco settlement dollars and excise taxes, most states are investing only pennies on the dollar to help smokers quit.”
  • Many states continued to bank on cigarettes taxes for new revenues to help balance budgets in hard times, the report said, but they did not invest in programs to help smokers quit and prevent kids from starting.

“If we’re going to break tobacco’s grip on America’s health, it takes a harnessing of resources by every state as well as by the federal government,” Connor said.

Want to learn more? The American Lung Association has information and resources to help you learn about the dangers of smoking, how to quit and our tobacco control advocacy efforts.