The Year in Tobacco Control

Ground both gained and lost in the battle against tobacco use.

(January 19, 2012)

The American Lung Association’s tenth annual State of Tobacco Control report chronicles a frustrating mix of progress and backsliding as it monitors progress on key tobacco control policies at the federal and state levels and assigns grades to assess whether laws are effectively protecting citizens from the terrible health burden caused by tobacco use.

State of Tobacco Control 2012 finds that over the past year, most states’ efforts to protect children and curb tobacco-related disease have been, in a word, abysmal. The federal government fared significantly better by making major advances in 2011, but still squandered one significant opportunity to save lives.

States fail to progress

Across America, states regressed in 2011.

  • No state passed a comprehensive smokefree workplace law, and Nevada weakened its current law.
  • Tobacco prevention and quit-smoking programs in a number of states were stung by funding cuts or were virtually eliminated, including a highly successful program in Washington state.
  • Higher cigarette prices keep kids from starting to smoke, but for the first year since the Lung Association began releasing the State of Tobacco Control report in 2003, no state raised its tobacco tax significantly. New Hampshire actually cut its cigarette tax by a dime per pack.

“Today’s report calls out states for their failures to protect children. If states completely retreat, it will bring even more tragic human consequences across America,” stated Charles D. Connor, President and CEO of the American Lung Association. “A race to the bottom is not necessary, when millions of lives are at stake.”

The state report cards for 2011 were awash with “F’s.” Only four states received all passing grades, while six states received straight “F’s.” How did your state rate? Learn more…

Federal government makes gains

In contrast to most states, the federal government earned high marks for its steps to implement strong and effective action to protect people from tobacco. This progress was multi-tiered and included:

  • Beginning to offer comprehensive quit-smoking benefits to millions of federal employees and their families.
  • Announcing that the federal government will give states partial reimbursement for quit-smoking counseling services furnished to Medicaid enrollees through state toll-free numbers called quitlines.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration unveiling new graphic warning labels for cigarette packs, which will include the national 1-800-QUIT-NOW telephone number to call for help with quitting.

However, the Obama Administration squandered an historic opportunity to help millions of American smokers quit when it failed to define the essential health benefit for states to implement when state health exchanges begin in 2014. Instead of requiring one, comprehensive cessation benefit across the nation, each state – many of which already have a poor track record of helping smokers quit – will determine their individual required benefit. This decision will likely lead to greater confusion and ultimately reduce smokers’ access to life-saving benefits that also save state healthcare systems money.  Click here to see the complete federal report.

A Decade of Progress at Risk

Tobacco use continues to reap a devastating toll. Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death as 443,000 people die each year from tobacco-related illnesses and secondhand smoke exposure. It also drains the economy of an enormous sum, more than $193 billion annually, in healthcare costs and lost productivity.

In the 10 years since the first American Lung Association State of Tobacco Control report, we’ve seen great strides in protecting our children from tobacco and helping smokers quit. But declining trends over the last three years show that this hard-earned progress could be undone.

Youth and adult smoking rates declined slowly over the past decade, but the decline has been inconsistent and could stall. The tobacco industry is fighting back aggressively, in both legislatures and the courts. They are marketing new lines of smokeless tobacco products that encourage people to sustain their nicotine addiction, rather than quitting. State budgets are stressed, and more and more states are spending less to control tobacco use, despite the knowledge that these cuts will cost them more in healthcare costs in the short and long term.

You can help stop the backsliding in tobacco control that puts more and more Americans at risk. Click here to learn how you can get involved and support our fight for healthy air and healthy lungs.