Missouri failed again this year in its efforts to protect children and curb tobacco-related disease, according to the American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control 2012 report.
The American Lung Association’s annual report card on tobacco control monitors progress on key tobacco control policies at the federal and state levels and assigns grades to assess whether laws are protecting citizens from the terrible health burden caused by tobacco use. The report calls attention to Missouri’s 9,584 annual smoking attributable deaths and calculates smoking’s economic toll on the state to be $4.7 billion annually. In addition, it is noted that Missouri has the lowest cigarette tax in the entire country, at only $0.17 per pack.
Missouri joins many other states that abdicated their responsibility in 2011 to enact much-needed laws and policies that save lives and reduce tobacco-related disease. Despite receiving $40 million in tobacco settlement money, Missouri has only allotted $58,693 for 2012 funding of tobacco control programs.
“Missouri collects more than $244 million in tobacco revenues. Tough financial times don’t justify a retreat in efforts to fight the leading cause of preventable death,” said Sara Dreiling, chief executive officer of the American Lung Association, Plains-Gulf Region. “Tobacco use drives up healthcare costs. The American Lung Association labored in 2011 to pass smoke-free laws and increase the tobacco tax, but ultimately fell short. If Missouri enacts smart strategies identified in the report for better protecting its citizens from tobacco’s dangers, it will save countless lives.”
During the 2012 legislative session, the American Lung Association will continue to focus on lung health and work with partners to ensure successful package of a comprehensive smoke-free law in addition to advocating for essential tobacco prevention funding and comprehensive cessation coverage for those trying to quit using tobacco products.
“Missouri is commonly regarded as one of the most – if not the most – tobacco friendly states in the nation, “said Leah Wiggs, Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association, Plains-Gulf Region. “That calls for an investment by the state, money set aside to provide Missourians with the information and tools they need to break free from the shackles of addiction, and the education to never start smoking in the first place.”
The American Lung Association report congratulates the federal government for taking action to carry out strong tobacco control policies, as it identifies a chasm between the progress achieved by the federal government and weak efforts by most states. Due to this inaction, the tobacco industry has made inroads to fill the resulting void, attempting to exploit states’ failure to act and marketing new products to addict Americans.
Although youth and adult smoking rates declined slowly over the past decade, the decline has been inconsistent. Tobacco use continues to reap a devastating toll. Each year, 443,000 people die from tobacco-related illnesses and secondhand smoke exposure. Tobacco causes an estimated 9,584 deaths in Missouri annually and costs the state’s economy $4,755,871,000 in healthcare costs and lost productivity.
In its tenth annual State of Tobacco Control report, the Lung Association graded all 50 states and the District of Columbia on four proven policies to save lives and cut healthcare costs. These are tobacco prevention and control program funding; smoke-free air laws; cigarette tax rates; and coverage of cessation treatments and services, to help smokers quit. Missouri received F’s in all four categories.
Along with Missouri, five other states received all F’s. The others were Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. Only four states, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine and Oklahoma, received all passing grades. No state received straight “A’s” in the State of Tobacco Control 2012 report.
Many states regressed in 2011. No state passed a strong smoke-free air law, and Nevada weakened its existing law. Washington virtually eliminated a tobacco prevention and quit-smoking program that was previously a national model. For the first year in recent memory, no state increased its tobacco tax significantly, and 13 states and the District of Columbia significantly cut or completely eliminated already meager funding of tobacco control and prevention programs.
“The enormity of the challenge facing us requires combined resources at both the state and federal levels,” said Dreiling. “Further failure isn’t an option, because our end goal is removing tobacco’s chokehold on America’s health, and that’s a life-and-death matter.”