Michigan’s Tobacco Control Report Card Grades Mixed

Policies to Protect Citizens from Tobacco-Related Disease and Death

LANSING MI (January 12, 2010)

For the first time in years, Michigan has cause to celebrate. The American Lung Association's State of Tobacco Control 2009 report released today shows that, while the State earned mixed grades in most of its tobacco control policies, it finally passed a statewide smokefree air policy that protects most Michigan workers from the dangers of secondhand smoke.  Despite this success, Michigan still received a failing grade "F" for its tobacco prevention and control spending and cessation coverage and earned only an unimpressive grade of "C" for its tobacco tax. The annual report card is a vital measure of Michigan's progress in combating death and disease caused by tobacco use. In this battle, the stakes are extremely high.

"We are thrilled that our lawmakers took action before the close of the year and passed a comprehensive smokefree air policy," said Susan Schechter, Director of Advocacy for Michigan.  "This policy alone will have a dramatic impact on the health and well being of all Michigan residents." 

"While we applaud state leaders for passing this smokefree air bill, it is still imperative that we hold them accountable for failing to implement the full range of policies proven to prevent death and disease caused by tobacco use," added Schechter. "This year, the American Lung Association fought to protect funding for tobacco prevention and control, but this effort was defeated because of the dire economic realities faced in our State.  Moreover, there are still too many individuals who don't have access to cessation coverage."

State of Tobacco Control 2009 grades states and the District of Columbia on smokefree air laws; cigarette tax rates; tobacco prevention and control program funding; and coverage of cessation treatments and services, designed to help smokers quit. Tobacco-related illness remains the number-one preventable cause of death in the U.S. and is responsible for an estimated 14,522 deaths in Michigan. Tobacco-related illness kills more than 393,000 Americans each year and costs our nation a staggering $193 billion annually. Another 50,000 Americans die from exposure to secondhand smoke. The U.S. Surgeon General has declared that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

To calculate grades published in State of Tobacco Control 2009, the American Lung Association compared policies against targets based on the most current, recognized scientific criteria for effective tobacco control, or policies that are the best in the nation. The American Lung Association report comes at a critical moment, when states cannot afford any complacency in efforts to curb the enormous burden of tobacco use. Events in 2009 underscored both the continuing devastation resulting from tobacco-caused disease and the outlaw character of the tobacco companies' schemes: 

  • Tobacco Epidemic Persists

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 46 million adults in the U.S. were smoking, according to the most recent (2008) survey data, and that the nation's "progress in ending the tobacco epidemic" had halted. The findings "indicate an alarming trend," the CDC warned in November, "because smoking is the leading preventable cause of death."

  • Court Affirms that Tobacco Companies are "Racketeers"

In the District of Columbia, a U.S. appeals court upheld a trial judge's verdict that tobacco companies violated federal laws against racketeering and lied for decades to deceive the public about the dangers of smoking. The May 22 opinion was important not only for its findings about the past, but also for troubling concerns it raised about the future. The tobacco companies, the court said, "knew about the negative health consequences of smoking, the addictiveness and manipulation of nicotine, the harmfulness of secondhand smoke, and the concept of smoker compensation, which makes light cigarettes no less harmful than regular cigarettes and possibly more." In the future, the appeals court held, the tobacco companies were likely to violate racketeering laws again.

State Grades

"It is time for Michigan elected officials to redouble efforts to reduce tobacco use, which is at the heart of a crisis plaguing America's health and economy," said Schechter. "It will require strong policies coming from both Lansing and Washington, D.C. to end the tobacco epidemic."

"Now that Michigan's smokefree air law becomes effective May 1, 2010, we can refocus our efforts on other important tobacco policies," said Schechter.  "We are not satisfied with a "C" grade on our tobacco tax.  In the last year, many states increased this tax and Michigan should follow suit.  It provides a win-win situation – reduce tobacco use and provide revenue to fund tobacco prevention and control efforts." 

Six states—Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia—received all "F's." No state earned straight "A's" in State of Tobacco Control 2009.

Facing record budget deficits, 14 states turned to cigarette taxes to increase revenues. Nonetheless, only four states qualified for an "A" grade in this category by imposing cigarette excise taxes of $2.68 or more.

Four proven policies to save lives and cut health care costs are higher tobacco taxes, prevention and control programs funded at levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, comprehensive smokefree air laws and coverage of cessation treatments. Many states, however, continue to fail to enact these critical policy measures. Instead, state-level political candidates accepted more than $7 million in campaign contributions from the tobacco industry in 2007-2008 and more than $670,000 through the first 11 months of 2009. 

In a disturbing trend, ten states including Michigan and the District of Columbia made alarming cuts of 25 percent or more to their tobacco control programs. These cuts undermine progress because a robust tobacco prevention and control program sustains and even expands the impact of higher cigarette taxes and smokefree workplace laws.

Federal Grades

The federal government took major and meaningful steps in 2009 to curb the burden caused by tobacco use. For two decades the American Lung Association has sought legislation for FDA regulation of tobacco products. Congress finally passed the legislation early in 2009. President Obama signed it June 22.

Congress also more than doubled the federal cigarette tax, from 39 cents to $1.01 per pack. In addition, both chambers of Congress passed health care reform legislation that could expand coverage under Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance for helping smokers quit .

The 2009 annual report card gives the federal government an "A" for FDA regulation of tobacco products and a "D" for the federal cigarette tax, along with an "F" for cessation coverage and a "D" for ratification of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (a treaty aimed at reducing tobacco use globally). The Obama administration has not submitted the treaty to the Senate for ratification, leaving the U.S. unable to participate in talks to implement and enforce the treaty.

This year, Michigan becomes one of 26 states that have passed comprehensive smokefree workplace laws protecting the public and workers from the dangers of secondhand smoke. The American Lung Association is dedicated to protecting each and every American from secondhand smoke through its Smokefree Air Challenge, a nationwide campaign to eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke in all work and public places.

Editor's Note: Complete report including federal and state grades available at: www.stateoftobaccocontrol.org