Smoke-Free Workplace Laws, Cigarette Taxes on the Rise
But 34 states aren't spending enough on smoking-cessation programs, report says
TUESDAY, Jan. 9, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Anti-tobacco forces are claiming some victories, with more states banning smoking in public places. But there's still too little state funding for smoking prevention and cessation programs.
That's the conclusion of the American Lung Association's fifth annual State of Tobacco Control Report Card, released Tuesday.
"The science is behind all the policy items that we give grades on," said Thomas A. Carr, manager of national policy at the American Lung Association. "But what is lacking is the political will to enact them in all the states and federal government."
"We know that strong smoke-free air laws, high cigarette taxes and tobacco-prevention programs work, but not all states are doing enough," Carr added. "Perhaps they don't realize what it's costing them. The health care costs are staggering. The costs of health care and lost productivity from tobacco are estimated at $167 billion nationwide each year."
Stanton A. Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, thinks the lack of progress in many states is due to pressure from tobacco companies.
"The tobacco companies are very politically active," Glantz said. "They spend a lot of money on campaign contributions and lobbyists, and they are very good at protecting their interests. Every inch of public health progress is a dollar out of the tobacco company's pockets."
David Sutton, a spokesman for Philip Morris U.S.A., said the cigarette maker "is opposed to excessive tax increases on cigarettes. They unfairly burden adult consumers. States can use their Master Settlement proceeds to fund smoking cessation and tobacco use prevention programs.
"We agree that there are places where smoking should not be allowed at all," he added. "We don't oppose reasonable public place smoking restrictions."
The new report highlights the growth in the number of states with smoke-free workplace laws and average cigarette taxes of at least $1 per pack, which indicates some progress was made in 2006 to protect Americans from the dangers of smoking, according to the report.
Carr thinks that the tax needs to be raised even more. "The tax still only averages $1 a pack," he said.
"Last year, we had nine states significantly strengthen their smoke-free-area laws," Carr continued. "Now, 13 states and the District of Columbia are smoke-free, with four more going fairly soon."
But, the report also stated that most states are failing to adequately fund programs to prevent tobacco use -- a critical step to keep children from taking up the habit.
"The bad news is that the federal government continues to fail in supporting anti-smoking laws and in giving the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco -- three 'Fs' and a 'D,' " Carr said.
The report grades the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico in four categories: smoke-free air, cigarette 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 an "A" in all four categories.
This year's report gave a record 26 states and the District of Columbia passing grades -- "C" or better for laws that make workplaces free of tobacco smoke. "However, 23 states received 'Fs,' " Carr said.
Taxes on cigarettes rose in eight states in 2006. New Jersey has the highest tax at $2.57 per pack, and the national average has risen to $1 a pack, according to the report.
Overall funding for tobacco-prevention and cessation-programs increased in 2006. "There are still 34 states that received 'Fs' for not funding these programs to the level they should be," Carr said. Only nine states received an "A" for spending a significant amount on smoking prevention and cessation, up from six states in 2005, he said.
Among new efforts to limit smoking in 2006, Tennessee banned smoking in all state government buildings, and North Carolina prohibited smoking in all buildings occupied by the General Assembly. In Virginia, the state Senate approved a smoke-free-air bill that was defeated in a House subcommittee.
In November's elections, seven states voted on ballot initiatives to prohibit smoking in most public places and workplaces, increase cigarette taxes, or increase funding for tobacco programs.
Voters approved nonsmoking initiatives in five of seven states -- Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Ohio and South Dakota. And voters rejected pro-tobacco industry proposals in Arizona, Nevada and Ohio, according to the report.
However, neither Congress nor the Bush administration took any meaningful steps to curb tobacco use. That lack of action earned the federal government an "F" for the year, according to the report.
A bill to give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate tobacco was introduced in Congress but wasn't passed. And the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control treaty was approved by 140 nations but not by the United States.
One expert agrees that more money needs to be spent on smoking-cessation programs and other anti-smoking measures.
"In the states, more money needs to be committed to comprehensive prevention programs," said Peter Fisher, vice president for state issues at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "More states need to enact statewide smoke-free laws, and there's still room to increase cigarette taxes."
Fisher said the failure to act reflects a lack of political will, not available funds. "Most states are getting huge amounts of money from the master tobacco settlement agreement and from cigarette taxes. But most states are failing to commit enough to address the tobacco problem," he said.
View the full report at the American Lung Association.