Pennsylvania receives 'F' for tobacco protection
The release of the American Lung Association's State of Tobacco Control 2010 report http://www.stateoftobaccocontrol.org/, an annual scorecard that tracks key tobacco control policies at the state and federal level, found Pennsylvania offers no protection against tobacco use as it assigns an "F" in both Tobacco Prevention and Control and Cessation Coverage, and a "C" in Smokefree Air and Cigarette Tax. Pennsylvania received a drop in grade in Cessation - going from a "C" in last year's report to an "F" this year.
"Pennsylvania has to move forward with renewed resolve to reduce the devastating levels of death and disease caused by tobacco use," said Deb Brown, president and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic, which includes Pennsylvania.
"Some of the toughest tobacco control legislation in our history has been enacted with the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act and the new health care law, but it is not enough. States like Pennsylvania have to seal the deal on tobacco control."
In 2010, the American Lung Association in Pennsylvania continued its efforts to put strong tobacco prevention and cessation policies in place. It fought for a wholesale tax over a weight-based tax for other tobacco products (OTP) and continued to advocate for the removal of exemptions for some casino and bars in the Clean Indoor Air law. However, these initiatives were met with opposition in the state legislature.
The Lung Association in Pennsylvania also strongly advocated for the restoration of funding for tobacco prevention and control programs as the commonwealth saw an astounding 45 percent decrease in funding in 2010.
As the Lung Association in Pennsylvania approaches the new year, its focus will remain in maintaining tobacco prevention and cessation funding at levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); creating a tax as well as tax equity on OTP; and the creation of the Pennsylvania Asthma Caucus.
Promotion and enforcement of smoking cessation coverage for all Pennsylvanians as well as the reduction of indoor and outdoor air pollution remain priorities for the Lung Association in Pennsylvania.
The State of Tobacco Control 2010 report applauds huge strides by the federal government: It started a crackdown on tobacco marketing to kids, banned misleading cigarette labels and greatly expanded benefits for treatments to help people quit smoking. But most states, including Pennsylvania, lagged far behind, the report says, in urging swift and forceful action at the state level to fight the tobacco epidemic.
The American Lung Association report shows vital action on some fronts in the fight against tobacco, yet it also underscores tobacco's grim national toll. Each year 443,000 people die from tobacco-related illnesses and secondhand smoke exposure, making tobacco the leading cause of preventable death.
"Our latest surgeon general's report on tobacco use concluded that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco," said Brown. "In Pennsylvania, 20,025 deaths are attributed to smoking. In addition, it costs the state's economy over $9 billion annually in health care costs and lost productivity.
"Failing in the areas of tobacco prevention and control and cessation is completely unacceptable. Funding for these initiatives has to be restored and provided for adequately," added Brown. "In addition, real investment in cessation would provide economic benefits for the state of Pennsylvania."
Another Lung Association study, Smoking Cessation: The Economic Benefits, found that if states were to invest in comprehensive smoking cessation benefits, it would receive a return on investment. In Pennsylvania, for every dollar spent on helping smokers quit, the Keystone State would see on average a return of $1.23.
It takes combined state and federal resources to reduce tobacco-related diseases, which are the byproduct of an adaptable industry, engaged in deadly deception. In 2010, the industry used new ways to push its products and target kids in a drive to replace dying customers. These tactics ranged from color-coding packaging in order to falsely claim less harmful cigarettes, to pitching smokeless tobacco in order to get more young people hooked.
Eight states Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia - received all "F's", and no state earned straight "A's" in State of Tobacco Control 2010.
The 50 states and District of Columbia were graded on tobacco prevention and control program funding; smoke-free air laws; cigarette tax rates; and coverage of cessation treatments and services, designed to help smokers quit. These categories draw on four proven policies to save lives and cut health care costs.
For the first time, the report card also provided a more complete picture of a state's cessation efforts by including data about quitlines in the state cessation grade. Quitlines are free, phone-based programs that provide services to help callers quit tobacco use.
A number of states continued in 2010 to rely on cigarette taxes for new revenues to help balance budgets, but they looked the other way rather than use part of the revenues to help smokers quit, according to the American Lung Association report.
Six states raised cigarette excise taxes. Yet most of those smokers who ended up paying more for a cigarette pack got no return at all in terms of help to end their addiction. South Carolina was a notable exception.
Only Kansas passed a strong smoke-free air law in 2010. Pennsylvania is one of 27 states that have passed comprehensive laws protecting the public and workers from the dangers of secondhand smoke.
The pace for passing such laws has declined sharply since 2006-2007, when 16 states and the District of Columbia met the American Lung Association's Smokefree Air Challenge, a nationwide campaign to eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke in all work and public places.
The federal government received all passing grades. It drew an "A" for FDA regulation of tobacco products; a "C" for cessation coverage provided under four major federal health care programs; a "D" for the federal cigarette tax; and a "D" for failure to ratify the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an international treaty.
"To finally break tobacco's grip on America's health, it takes a harnessing of resources by every state as well as by the federal government," said Charles D. Connor, president and CEO of the American Lung Association. "The annual report card spells out what we're doing right and where we must work harder to achieve that vision."
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