January 20, 2011

States Fail At Taking Steps To End Tobacco Use

A major health group said on Thursday that U.S. leaders took meaningful steps to reduce smoking over the past year, increasing treatment options and giving the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) new power to regulate tobacco.

However, according to the American Lung Association which issued its annual report card on U.S. tobacco control efforts, states "failed miserably" at protecting citizens from the burden of tobacco use. 

"President (Barack) Obama and our leaders in the 111th Congress enacted what will be regarded as the strongest tobacco control policies thus far in American history," Charles Connor, president and chief executive of the American Lung Association, said in a statement.

"While we still have a long way to go, for the first time, the administration and the Congress joined forces to squarely confront the tobacco epidemic."

However, Connor said states are "failing miserably" at combating tobacco-caused disease.

"Despite collecting millions of dollars -- and in some cases billions -- in tobacco settlement dollars and excise taxes, most states are investing only pennies on the dollar to help smokers quit," he said in a statement.

The group said the FDA has been good at starting to implement tobacco control legislation.  But, the group said it wanted tougher action on marketing tactics being used by the tobacco industry, including the use of color-coded packaging to suggest their products are less harmful.

The American Lung Association praised the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' move to make smoking prevention and cessation efforts key elements of the government's health and wellness plans. 

States lagging behind the most were Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

The group said that states like Arkansas, Montana, Maine, Oklahoma and Vermont did the best job at providing support to smokers trying to quit.

The American Lung Association said states continue to raise taxes on cigarettes, but many fail to invest that money in smoking cessation programs.

"Most states are ducking the responsibility to help smokers quit," Connor said.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year 443,000 people die from tobacco-related illnesses and secondhand smoke exposure, making tobacco the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.

Smoking costs over $193 billion each year in health costs and lost productivity.


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