Ark. gets C for tobacco policy | Arkansas Blog

Ark. gets C for tobacco policy

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The American Lung Association's annual report card on states' efforts to reduce smoking gives Arkansas a C average, including a D on taxes (the higher they are the more they discourage smoking and thus the better the grade).

NEWS RELEASE

Arkansas’ tobacco control policies earned mixed grades, with low marks for cigarette tax and average marks for tobacco control spending and cessation coverage in the American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control 2009 report released today. Grades reflect improvements in spending for tobacco prevention and control.
 
Arkansas received the following grades:
·         Tobacco Prevention and Control Spending, C
·         Cigarette Tax, D
·         Smokefree Air, B
·         Cessation Coverage, C
 
The annual report card is a vital measure of Arkansas’ progress in combating death and disease caused by tobacco use. In this battle, the stakes are extremely high.
 
“Although the report card gives grades for the adequacy of tobacco control programs, this exercise isn’t academic,” said Michelle Bernth, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Health Promotions and Public Policy. “The consequences of success or failure are life or death.”
 
State of Tobacco Control 2009 grades states and the District of Columbia on smokefree air laws; cigarette tax rates; tobacco prevention and control program funding; and coverage of cessation treatments and services, designed to help smokers quit.
 
“Arkansas’ leaders are making progress when it comes to some aspects of tobacco control, but it is imperative that we hold them accountable for failing to implement the full range of policies proven to prevent death and disease caused by tobacco use,” added Bernth.
 
Tobacco-related illness remains the number-one preventable cause of death in the U.S. and is responsible for an estimated 4,915 deaths in Arkansas. Tobacco-related illness kills more than 393,000 Americans each year and costs our nation a staggering $193 billion annually. Another 50,000 Americans die from exposure to secondhand smoke. The U.S. Surgeon General has declared that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.
 
To calculate grades published in State of Tobacco Control 2009, the American Lung Association compared policies against targets based on the most current, recognized scientific criteria for effective tobacco control, or policies that are the best in the nation.
 
The American Lung Association report comes at a critical moment, when states cannot afford any complacency in efforts to curb the enormous burden of tobacco use. Events in 2009 underscored both the continuing devastation resulting from tobacco-caused disease and the outlaw character of the tobacco companies’ schemes:
 
Tobacco Epidemic Persists
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 46 million adults in the U.S. were smoking, according to the most recent (2008) survey data, and that the nation’s “progress in ending the tobacco epidemic” had halted. The findings “indicate an alarming trend,” the CDC warned in November, “because smoking is the leading preventable cause of death.”
 
Court Affirms that Tobacco Companies are “Racketeers”
In the District of Columbia, a U.S. appeals court upheld a trial judge’s verdict that tobacco companies violated federal laws against racketeering and lied for decades to deceive the public about the dangers of smoking.
 
The May 22 opinion was important not only for its findings about the past, but also for troubling concerns it raised about the future. The tobacco companies, the court said, “knew about the negative health consequences of smoking, the addictiveness and manipulation of nicotine, the harmfulness of secondhand smoke, and the concept of smoker compensation, which makes light cigarettes no less harmful than regular cigarettes and possibly more.” In the future, the appeals court held, the tobacco companies were likely to violate racketeering laws again.
 
State Grades
“It is time for Arkansas’ elected officials to redouble efforts to reduce tobacco use, which is at the heart of a crisis plaguing America’s health and economy,” said Bernth “It will require strong policies coming from both Little Rock and Washington, D.C. to end the tobacco epidemic.”
 
Six states—Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia—received all “F’s.” No state earned straight “A’s” in State of Tobacco Control 2009.
 
Facing record budget deficits, 14 states, including Arkansas, turned to cigarette taxes to increase revenues. Nonetheless, only four states qualified for an “A” grade in this category by imposing cigarette excise taxes of $2.68 or more.
 
Four proven policies to save lives and cut health care costs are higher tobacco taxes, prevention and control programs funded at levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, comprehensive smokefree air laws and coverage of cessation treatments. Many states, however, continue to fail to enact these critical policy measures. Instead, state-level political candidates accepted more than $7 million in campaign contributions from the tobacco industry in 2007-2008 and more than $670,000 through the first 11 months of 2009.  
 
In a disturbing trend, ten states and the District of Columbia made alarming cuts of 25 percent or more to their tobacco control programs. These cuts undermine progress because a robust tobacco prevention and control program sustains and even expands the impact of higher cigarette taxes and smokefree workplace laws.
 
Federal Grades
The federal government took major and meaningful steps in 2009 to curb the burden caused by tobacco use. For two decades the American Lung Association has sought legislation for FDA regulation of tobacco products. Congress finally passed the legislation early in 2009. President Obama signed it June 22.
 
Congress also more than doubled the federal cigarette tax, from 39 cents to $1.01 per pack. In addition, both chambers of Congress passed health care reform legislation that could expand coverage under Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance for helping smokers quit .
 
The 2009 annual report card gives the federal government an “A” for FDA regulation of tobacco products and a “D” for the federal cigarette tax, along with an “F” for cessation coverage and a “D” for ratification of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (a treaty aimed at reducing tobacco use globally). The Obama administration has not submitted the treaty to the Senate for ratification, leaving the U.S. unable to participate in talks to implement and enforce the treaty.
 
Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia have passed comprehensive smokefree workplace laws protecting the public and workers from the dangers of secondhand smoke. The American Lung Association is dedicated to protecting each and every American from secondhand smoke through its Smokefree Air Challenge, a nationwide campaign to eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke in all work and public places

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