Based on a report card issued last month by the American Lung Association, it appears that some progress was made in 2006 to protect the public from the dangers of smoking. But, the annual report notes that the majority of states are still failing to adequately fund programs to prevent tobacco use – a critical component in keeping children from starting to smoke. On a positive note, there has been dramatic growth in the number of states with smokefree workplace laws.
The American Lung Association State of Tobacco Control 2006 report graded the 50 states, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico in four categories: smokefree air, tobacco taxes, prevention funding, and restrictions on youth access to tobacco products. For the second year in a row, Maine was the only state to earn a grade of “A” in all four categories. John L. Kirkwood, president and CEO of the American Lung Association, commented:
Our report sets a high standard. Only the strongest tobacco control laws will protect people from a product responsible for more than 438,000 deaths each year. The tragedy of tobacco use will be resolved only when comprehensive, strong policies are adopted to curb smoking.
The 2006 report gave a record 26 states and the District of Columbia passing grades, which would be a “C” or better, for having laws that make workplaces free of tobacco smoke. Unfortunately, another 23 states received “F” grades in that category. Although overall funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs increased in 2006, 34 states received “F” grades for the amount they spend to help people avoid smoking or quit. Only nine states received “A” grades for spending a significant amount on smoking prevention and cessation, up from six states in 2005. Unfortunately, Alabama received “F” grades in all of the four categories.
The American Lung Association’s Smokefree Air 2010 Challenge has been successful. This campaign was launched in 2006 to make all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico 100% smokefree no later than 2010. Sixteen states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico are now considered to be smokefree, up from just two states in 2002 and nearly double the nine states that were smokefree in 2005 – a nine-fold increase in just four years. The goal is to meet the group’s Smokefree 2010 Challenge target. Meeting that goal will mean healthier and smokefree air, reduced health care costs and will result in thousands of lives being saved.
In November, seven states voted on ballot initiatives to prohibit smoking in most public places and workplaces, increase cigarette taxes, or increase funding for tobacco programs. The tobacco industry spent millions to defeat good tobacco initiatives – or to support bad ones – but they were unsuccessful. Voters approved pro-health initiatives in five of seven cases – in Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Ohio and South Dakota. Importantly, voters rejected the bad, pro-industry proposals in Ohio, Arizona and Nevada.
The federal government received an “F” for last year’s poor performance. Neither Congress nor the Administration took any meaningful steps to curb tobacco use. The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the world’s first tobacco control treaty, was ignored by President Bush. It became international law, approved by 140 nations – not including the United States, which is par for the course. The American Lung Association State of Tobacco Control Report can be found online at www.lungusa.org. I hope 2007 will be an even better year for all states and the federal government. Curbing smoking should be a top priority for all legislative bodies, including Congress, this year.
Sources: Associated Press and the American Lung Association
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