Washington Must Work Harder to Prevent Tobacco-Caused Disease and Death

(January 19, 2012)

Contact: Carrie Nyssen

Washington Must Work Harder to Prevent Tobacco-Caused Disease and Death

Seattle, WA–Washington took steps in the wrong direction when it comes to protecting children and curbing tobacco-related disease in 2011 according to the American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control 2012 report.

The Lung Association’s annual report card on tobacco control monitors progress on key tobacco control policies at the federal and state levels and assigns grades to assess whether laws are protecting citizens from the terrible health burden caused by tobacco use.

Washington received mixed grades on their report card. They received an “A” for smokefree air, an “A” for cigarette tax, an “F” for tobacco prevention and control spending, and an “F” for cessation coverage. Washington joins many other states that fell short in its responsibility to enact much-needed laws and policies that save lives and reduce tobacco-related disease.  

“If Washington pursues smart strategies identified in the report for better protecting its residents from tobacco’s dangers, it will save countless lives,” said Renée Klein, President and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mountain Pacific.

A recent study demonstrated for every $1 invested in the state’s tobacco control programs a $5 savings is realized in certain tobacco-related costs.  Despite this evidence, Washington’s proven successful tobacco prevention program was completely defunded in 2011.  Washington is also the only state in the nation who does not offer quit-line services to its uninsured population.

“Washington needs to invest in its people by providing quit-line services to its residents, ensuring comprehensive cessation benefits for our Medicaid population and keeping Washington’s smoke-free law strong and intact,” said Klein.

The Lung Association report congratulates the federal government for taking action to carry out strong tobacco control policies, as it identifies a chasm between the progress achieved by the federal government and weak efforts by most states.  Due to states’ inaction, the tobacco industry has made inroads to fill the resulting void, attempting to exploit states’ failure to act and marketing new products to addict Americans.

Although youth and adult smoking rates declined slowly over the past decade, the decline has been inconsistent. Tobacco use continues to reap a devastating toll. The adult smoking rate in Washington is 15.2 percent.  Tobacco causes an estimated 7,619 deaths in Washington annually and costs the state’s economy $3,763,962,000 in healthcare costs and lost productivity.

In its tenth annual State of Tobacco Control report, the Lung Association graded all 50 states and the District of Columbia on four proven policies to save lives and cut healthcare costs. These are tobacco prevention and control program funding; smokefree air laws; cigarette tax rates; and coverage of cessation treatments and services, to help smokers quit.

Overall, six states received all “F’s.” They were Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. Only four states, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine and Oklahoma, received all passing grades. No state received straight “A’s.”

Many states regressed in 2011. No state passed a strong smokefree air law, and Nevada weakened its existing law. For the first year in recent memory, no state increased its tobacco tax significantly, and 13 states and the District of Columbia significantly cut or completely eliminated already meager funding of tobacco control and prevention programs.

“The enormity of the challenge facing us requires combined resources at both the state and federal levels,” said Renée Klein, President and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mountain Pacific. “Failure isn’t an option, because our end goal is removing tobacco’s chokehold on America’s health, and that’s a life-and-death matter.”


About the American Lung Association in Washington
The American Lung Association in Washington is a non-profit, voluntary public health organization, working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease in Washington. Our programs focus on the areas of asthma, clean air, tobacco prevention and lung disease.

For more information about the American Lung Association in Washington or to support the work it does, call: (206) 441-5100 or visit: www.alaw.org.