Ohio’s Cigarette Tax Grade Drops in American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control Annual Report Card

(January 12, 2010)

Ohio’s grade for cigarette tax went from a “C” to a “D” as Ohio fell behind other states that raised their cigarette taxes.

In fact, Ohio did poorly on almost all categories in the American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control 2009 report released today. Ohio received an “F” for tobacco prevention and control spending, and an “F” for tobacco cessation coverage.

Ohio did receive an “A” for Smokefree Air. But, overall, Ohio failed to enact or put into place proven policies for preventing death and disease caused by tobacco use, the number one preventable cause of death in the United States.

 

“Although the report card gives grades for the adequacy of tobacco control programs, this exercise isn’t academic,” said Shelly Kiser, Director of Advocacy. “The consequences of success or failure are life or death. For Ohio, the report card sounds a wake-up call.  This is the year Ohio must increase tobacco taxes to keep kids from using tobacco and invest in vital tobacco prevention and cessation programs.”

 

Ohio’s cigarette tax is $1.25 per pack. The average state cigarette tax is $1.34, and the average for non-tobacco farming and manufacturing states is $1.47.  Ohio’s cigarette tax was last raised five years ago in 2005. Ohio’s Other Tobacco Products (OTP) tax is 17% of wholesale price—less than half the cigarette tax if compared equally—and it has never been raised.

 

The American Lung Association in Ohio is calling on Ohio’s lawmakers to equalize the OTP tax with the cigarette tax and use the funds for tobacco prevention and cessation programs. By coupling this with an increase in the cigarette tax, Ohio will see a decrease in tobacco use, especially among Ohio’s youth, and will save money on healthcare expenses.

 

“It is imperative that we hold our elected officials accountable for failing to fully implement robust policies to reduce the death and disease caused by tobacco use,” said Kiser. “The American Lung Association in Ohio fought hard in 2009 to fund tobacco prevention and cessation but this effort was defeated because of lack of political will. Unfortunately, our kids will pay the price.”

 

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 18,000 deaths in Ohio. 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.

 

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

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 healthcare costs are higher tobacco taxes, prevention and control programs funded at levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 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 $675,000 through the first 11 months of 2009.  

 

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 healthcare 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 FCTC. 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.

 

“It is time for Ohio’s elected officials to redouble efforts to reduce tobacco use, which is at the heart of a crisis plaguing America’s health and economy. It will require strong policies coming from both Columbus and Washington, D.C., to end the tobacco epidemic,” said Kiser. “If we jog in place, we’re not going to win the race. We look to Ohio’s lawmakers to move forward legislation to increase tobacco taxes and fund tobacco prevention programs for a double win for the health of Ohioans.”