Bloomberg News

Tobacco Policies ‘Abysmal’ in U.S. States, Lung Group Says

January 23, 2012

(Updates with teen smoking rate in 11th paragraph.)

Jan. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Anti-tobacco efforts by U.S. states were “abysmal” last year as their collective spending on anti- smoking programs declined 11 percent and only two raised cigarette taxes, the American Lung Association said.

While more than half the states already ban the use of cigarettes in restaurants, bars and workplaces, no additional states passed comprehensive anti-smoking laws last year, the Washington-based health advocacy group said today in a report.

Forty-three states and the District of Columbia earned grades of “F” for funding smoking-prevention programs at less than half the levels the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged in a 2007 report, the lung group said. Smoking costs the U.S. economy almost $193 billion a year in medical expenses and lost productivity, said Charles Connor, the association’s president and chief executive officer.

“At a time when our country is trying to get a handle on health-care spending, this is an enormous expense that could be avoided by investing in effective tobacco-prevention and cessation programs and policies,” Connor said yesterday on a conference call.

More than 20 percent of adults in the U.S., or 46 million people, smoke cigarettes, according to the Atlanta-based CDC. Smoking is the biggest cause of preventable death in the U.S., killing about 443,000 people a year.

Nationwide, state investments in tobacco control dropped 11 percent to $477 million in 2011 from $534 million in 2010, according to the report. Washington, Iowa and Wisconsin were among states that reduced spending.

Alaska Spending

Alaska was the only state that funded tobacco programs at levels suggested by the CDC, allocating $10.8 million for tobacco control in fiscal 2012, according to the lung association’s report. In 2007, the CDC recommended anti-tobacco funding levels for each state.

Vermont and Connecticut were the only states that raised tobacco taxes last year, while eight states rejected proposed increases. New Hampshire reduced its cigarette tax 10 cents per pack, the survey found.

While 26 states and the District of Columbia enacted laws in the past decade that ban smoking in public places such as restaurants, 2011 was the first year since 2001 when no state passed a comprehensive anti-smoking law, the report said.

“What we saw last year was virtually no progress” by states, said Danny McGoldrick, vice president for research at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in Washington. “That leads us to fear what’s going to happen in the future in terms of our youth smoking rates and adult smoking rates.”

Teen Smoking Rate

Teen smoking dropped last year to the lowest level since 1975, researchers at the University of Michigan said Dec. 14 in a survey funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. About 11.7 percent of eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders said they had smoked in the previous 30 days, compared with 12.8 percent in 2010.

The decline signaled that state tobacco-prevention policies enacted before 2011 were working, McGoldrick said.

“You’re not saving money by cutting these programs,” he said. “It’s like a person who says, ‘My medicine was working so I stopped taking it.’ If it works, we need to keep doing it, and we know it works.”

None of the states earned “A” grades in all four policy areas covered in the report: cigarette taxes, smoking bans, tobacco-prevention spending and cessation coverage. Delaware, Hawaii, Maine and Oklahoma were the only states that received passing grades in all four areas.

Failing Grades

Six states -- Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia -- scored grades of “F” in all four areas, according to the report.

Most states’ anti-smoking scores lagged behind those of the federal government, which didn’t receive any failing grades in four categories and earned an “A” for the Food and Drug Administration’s implementation of a 2009 law that restricts tobacco marketing.

The U.S. earned a “C” in smoking-cessation programs, for partially covering the programs for beneficiaries of Medicaid, the health program for the poor, and other federal benefits programs.

“The federal government has made real progress in helping many Americans end their deadly addiction to tobacco, but state policy makers must step up and close the gap,” Thomas Carr, the lung association’s director of national policy and the report’s lead author, said on the conference call.

The 2009 tobacco law bars companies led by Altria Group Inc., Reynolds American Inc. and Lorillard Inc. from marketing tobacco to young people. It also bans the use of the words “mild,” “light” and “low-tar” on cigarette packs.

While the law also calls for all cigarette packs to carry graphic warning labels, a U.S. judge blocked those rules in November, saying the required images may violate tobacco companies’ free-speech rights. The FDA is appealing the ruling.

--Editor: Andrew Pollack, Adriel Bettelheim

To contact the reporter on this story: Molly Peterson in Washington at mpeterson9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Adriel Bettelheim at abettelheim@bloomberg.net


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