Wisconsin Has Mixed Results in Working to Reduce Tobacco Use

(January 16, 2013)

New American Lung Association Report Follows Money Trail to See How Tobacco Industry Addicts Kids 

Brookfield, WI – Wisconsin is doing well at reducing tobacco use through high cigarette taxes and a strong smokefree air law, but falls short in adequately funding programs to prevent youth from starting to smoke and assist smokers in quitting, according to the American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control 2013 report released today.

The Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control report tracks 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.

Wisconsin received the following grades for 2012:

Smokefree Air – A
Cigarette Tax – B
Tobacco Prevention and Control Program Funding – F
Smoking Cessation Coverage - F

The 11th annual report shows how money is often at the root of the leading cause of preventable death, as state and federal policymakers are failing to battle a deep-pocketed, ever-evolving tobacco industry.

The National Institute on Money in State Politics released a report today in conjunction with State of Tobacco Control 2013 called Big Tobacco Wins Tax Battles, revealing preliminary data that tobacco manufacturers and retailers gave $53.4 million to state candidates for office, political parties and to oppose tobacco-related ballot measures during the 2011-2012 election cycle, including spending over $46 million to defeat California’s initiative to increase the cigarette tax. 

Although Wisconsin receives $718 million in tobacco-related revenue annually, it spends a meager eight percent of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends to adequately fund tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs. 

“Wisconsin must make it a priority to pass policies and invest in programs that keep kids off tobacco and to help smokers quit,” said Sue Swan, Executive Director of the American Lung Association in Wisconsin.  “That starts with providing adequate funding for prevention and cessation programs.”

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

On a positive note, Wisconsin’s cigarette tax is $2.52, in the top 10 nationally.  High prices have been demonstrated to be a deterrent to youth smoking and an incentive for smokers to quit.  The tax on other tobacco products however, is considerably less.  Tobacco companies continue to introduce and promote new products, such as candy and fruit-flavored cigars and dissolvable tobacco products.  Youth, people who are low income, Hispanics and LGBT who smoke cigars are more likely to smoke flavored cigars, according to a recent study in Nicotine and Tobacco Research.  Meanwhile, the sales and popularity of these tobacco products have surged in large part due to their cheaper price.  The American Lung Association in Wisconsin calls on Governor Walker and the state legislature to raise taxes on tobacco products other than cigarettes to achieve tax parity. 

“We know that a strong tobacco control program and high prices reduce tobacco use,” continued Swan.  “Our recent youth smoking rates – the lowest ever – bear that out.  With the revenues Wisconsin receives from tobacco use, money should not be a barrier to preventing kids from starting and helping smokers quit,” said Swan.