American Lung Association’s “State of Tobacco Control 2014” Report Highlights Urgent Need for Wisconsin to Renew Its Commitment to Eliminate Tobacco-Caused Death and Disease

Wisconsin Has Mixed Results in Working to Reduce Tobacco Use in 2013; tobacco use still leading cause of preventable death

Brookfield, WI (January 22, 2014)

Wisconsin has  taken steps forward to reduce tobacco use in some areas, but still falls short in adequately funding prevention programs to protect children and curb tobacco-related disease and helping tobacco users quit.  Those were the findings of the American Lung Association’s “State of Tobacco Control 2014” report released today.   50 years since the first Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health was issued on January 11, 1964, and less than a week after the new Surgeon General’s report providing the latest research was released, the Lung Association’s new report issues an urgent call to action to policymakers across the country.  Policymakers must recommit to eliminating tobacco-caused death and disease.

“Despite strides in reducing smoking rates in America by half in the last 50 years, tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and illness in the U.S., including lung cancer, the number one cancer killer of both men and women in America,” said Linda Witucki, Executive Director for the American Lung Association in Wisconsin.  “The Surgeon General’s 2014 report is the call to action that our nation needs to renew its commitment and not let another 50 years of inaction occur. 

The Lung Association’s “State of Tobacco Control 2014,” its 12th annual report, tracks yearly progress on key tobacco control policies at the federal and state level, assigning grades based on whether laws are adequately protecting citizens from the enormous toll tobacco use takes on lives and the economy.  The 2014 report highlights the 50th anniversary of the historic 1964 Surgeon General’s report that linked smoking to lung cancer and other diseases for the first time.

In advance of the 50th anniversary, the American Lung Association and its partners called for action by all levels of government to achieve three bold goals:
• Reduce smoking rates, currently around 18 percent, to under 10 percent within 10 years;
• Protect all Americans from secondhand smoke within five years; and
• Ultimately eliminate the death and disease caused by tobacco use.

Wisconsin received the following grades for State of Tobacco Control 2014:

Smokefree Air – A  Cessation Coverage – F

Cigarette Tax – B  Tobacco Prevention and Control Program Funding – F

Wisconsin’s report card was decidedly mixed in the fight against tobacco use. “We’ve made some progress in protecting our citizens from tobacco-caused diseases like lung cancer and COPD, particularly in the area of protecting our citizens from secondhand smoke,” said Witucki. “However, we have more work ahead in 2014.”

Tobacco causes an estimated 7,240 deaths in Wisconsin annually and costs the state’s economy $3.7 million in healthcare costs and lost productivity.

Priorities that must be addressed to improve Wisconsin’s grades in 2014 include:

• Equalizing the tax rate on ALL tobacco products to be consistent with the cigarette tax.
• Increasing funding for the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program, including cessation resources for tobacco users.

“Wisconsin’s policymakers must step up to provide more smokers with the support they need to quit and adequately fund prevention programs that help keep our kids off tobacco,” said Witucki. “Equalizing the tax across-the-board on all tobacco products will both discourage kids from using some of these other tobacco products, but also increase revenues that can be used to fight tobacco use,” she added.

Meanwhile, the tobacco industry continued efforts at the federal and state levels to exempt their products from meaningful public health protections.

The three largest cigarette manufacturers—Altria, Reynolds American, and Lorillard—aggressively expanded into tobacco products other than cigarettes in 2013. As cigarette use continues to gradually decline, these companies continue to addict America’s youth and reap profits from smokeless tobacco, cigars and now e-cigarettes.

“I urge everyone in Wisconsin to join the American Lung Association and renew their commitment to preventing another 50 years of tobacco-related death and disease,” said Witucki.  “The Lung Association echoes the Surgeon General’s cry of, “Enough is enough.’”