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Report: States Need to Do More to Reduce Smoking

American Lung Association issues scathing assessment (Jan. 16)

In its annual report, “State of Tobacco Control,” the American Lung Association (ALA) has some harsh criticism for federal and state governments, which have largely failed to combat tobacco industry tactics while diverting or misusing tobacco-control funds, the association says.

The ALA tracks annual progress on key tobacco-control policies at the federal and state levels, assigning letter grades based on whether laws are adequately protecting citizens from the costs of tobacco use.

According to the new report, the federal government’s progress on tobacco control over the past several years nearly ground to a halt in 2012, earning it the worst report card in years — three “Ds” and an “F.” Most notably, the FDA failed to exercise its oversight authority, allowing the proliferation of a new generation of tobacco products aimed at youth smokers. The one major success for the federal government in 2012 was the “Tips From Former Smokers” advertising campaign by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which spurred a dramatic increase in the number of smokers seeking help to quit.

The report also criticizes state governments for failing to invest income from tobacco taxes and tobacco settlement payments into programs proven to keep youth off tobacco and to help current smokers quit. Despite receiving $25.7 billion in tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes this year, more than 40 states received an “F” for not investing even half of what is recommended by the CDC in proven tobacco prevention programs. According to the most recent U.S. Surgeon General’s report, if states begin to invest in tobacco prevention programs, youth tobacco use could be cut in half within 6 years, the ALA says.

States and the federal government also failed to raise taxes on tobacco products other than cigarettes. This led to a surge in the consumption of cheaper products, including flavored cigars, which are popular among vulnerable populations, such as youth, low-income communities, and Hispanics.

According to the ALA, smoking costs the American public almost $200 billion every year in healthcare costs and in lost productivity and wages.

In a related report, a group called the National Institute on Money in State Politics claims that the tobacco industry made campaign contributions to candidates for political office and bankrolled efforts aimed at defeating ballot initiatives. According to the report, candidates for state office during the 2011–2012 election cycle accepted $53.4 million, and the industry spent $46 million to defeat Proposition 29, which would have increased California’s cigarette tax by $1.00 per pack. In addition, the tobacco industry contributed more than $3.7 million to candidates for federal office.

Source: American Lung Association; January 16, 2013.

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