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Anti-smoking laws: State and federal laws are failing to protect you

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Anti-smoking needs

The American Lung Association released its State of Tobacco Control 2008 report today, which includes a report card that grades the strength of state and federal laws to protect citizens from tobacco-related illnesses. Unfortunately, the report finds that most states and the government are failing in protecting people from the harm caused by deadly tobacco products. How does your state rank? Read on.

No Smoking Sign

Tobacco-related illnesses cost thousands of lives and more

Tobacco-related illnesses remain the number one preventable cause of death in the United States, claiming near 400,000 American lives every year and costing the nation $193 billion annually.

In addition, it's not just the smokers who are impacted by their tobacco use. Upwards of 50,000 people die each year from exposure to secondhand smoke. Take note that the US Surgeon General has declared that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

Even worse, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics indicates that toxins from tobacco cling to a smoker's hair, clothing, and on other surfaces within the home, including carpets and cushions long after a cigarette is put out. Termed third-hand smoke, this residue can harm children, who may ingest particles while playing, crawling, or just snuggling up to the smoker. (Read The harmful effects of smoking around children for more information.)

Our leaders need to prioritize our health

"Political leaders have a duty to reduce death and disease caused by tobacco use," says Charles D. Connor, president and CEO of the American Lung Association. "Our new leaders in Washington have an unprecedented opportunity to change the direction of public health by taking steps that ultimately will save millions of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars for the American economy.

Leaders frequently say they will do their best to save money and enact measures for the betterment of the people. But sometimes they overlook – or simply opt to not prioritize – beneficial ways to accomplish their goals.

Connor adds, "During these economically challenged times, it simply cannot be ignored that investing in tobacco prevention and cessation programs is one of the most cost effective ways to improve our nation's health while trimming the bottom line."

The federal government flunks anti-smoking report card

The State of Tobacco Control 2008 grades are calculated by comparing policies against targets that are based on the most current, recognized scientific criteria for effective tobacco control measures.

Despite a number of strong steps forward in 2008 including the House passage of a bill that would allow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate the tobacco industry, the federal government again failed to fully enact meaningful tobacco control legislation.

The American Lung Association calculates federal tobacco control grades based on the following:

  • FDA regulation of tobacco products (Grade: F)
  • Coverage of tobacco cessation treatments (Grade: F)
  • Amount of federal cigarette tax (Grade: F)
  • Ratification of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (Grade: D)

Few states receive a passing grade on anti-smoking policies

The American Lung Association updated this year's state grading guidelines to ensure they reflect the most effective tobacco control policies.

According to the State of Tobacco Control 2008 report, states continued to fail to enact critical anti-smoking policy measures. Further, the report indicates that state-level political candidates accepted more than $2.5 million in campaign contributions from the tobacco industry in 2008.

As for grading, states and the District of Columbia were rated on the following:

  • Smokefree air laws
  • Cigarette tax rates
  • Tobacco prevention and control programs
  • Coverage of cessation treatments

Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia received all F's. No state earned an "A" for offering comprehensive tobacco cessation treatments to its Medicaid recipients and state employees.

Iowa and Nebraska were the only two states to meet the American Lung Association's Smokefree Air Challenge in 2008 by passing strong smokefree air laws.

Only Alaska and Delaware received A's for funding tobacco prevention and control programs at 80 percent or more of the CDC-recommended level.

Only Massachusetts, New York and the District of Columbia raised cigarette excise taxes in 2008, despite evidence linking increased cigarette prices with decreased smoking rates, especially among youth.

Want to find out how your state ranked? Visit www.StateofTobaccoControl.org for the complete report, including anti-smoking grades for both federal and state anti-smoking grades as well as other findings. You can also visitwww.LungUSA.org for more information on preventing tobacco-related lung disease and to support the American Lung Association's research, education and advocacy for lung health.

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