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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Working to Reduce Tobacco Use,
Pennsylvania Has Mixed Results

CAMP HILL – Pennsylvania fell short in adequately funding programs to protect children and curb tobacco-related disease in 2012 according to the American Lung Association’s “State of Tobacco Control 2013” report released today.

The Lung Association’s “State of Tobacco Control” report tracks progress on key tobacco control policies at the federal and state level, assigning grades based on whether laws are adequately protecting citizens from the enormous toll tobacco use takes on lives and the economy.

The 11th annual report shows how money is often at the root of the leading cause of preventable death, as state and federal policymakers are failing to battle a deep-pocketed, ever-evolving tobacco industry.

The National Institute on Money in State Politics released a report today in conjunction with “State of Tobacco Control 2013” called “Big Tobacco Wins Tax Battles,” revealing preliminary data that tobacco manufacturers and retailers gave $53.4 million to state candidates for office, political parties and to oppose tobacco-related ballot measures during the 2011-2012 election cycle. This figure includes spending over $46 million to defeat California’s initiative to increase the cigarette tax by $1.00 per pack. Tobacco manufacturers and retailers gave significant amounts of money to candidates in the following states: California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana and Missouri.

Although Pennsylvania receives $1.4 billion in tobacco-related revenue annually, it spends a meager 11 percent of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends to fund tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs. Nationally, the failure of states to invest in policies and programs to reduce tobacco use has resulted in 3 million new youth and young adult smokers in the United States, according to the U.S. Surgeon General.

Pennsylvania received the following grades for 2012.

• F in Funding for Tobacco Prevention and Control Programs
• C in Smokefree Air
• C in Cigarette Taxes
• F in Cessation Coverage

Pennsylvania joins many other states in neglecting to properly invest its annual tobacco settlement funds and tobacco taxes to implement proven tactics that save lives and reduce tobacco-related disease.

“Pennsylvania must make it a priority to invest in programs that keep kids off tobacco and to help smokers quit,” said Deb Brown, president and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic. “That starts with increasing Pennsylvania’s current level of tobacco prevention and cessation funding.”

Tobacco causes an estimated 20,025 deaths in Pennsylvania annually and costs the state’s economy $9.4 billion in healthcare costs and lost productivity, a tremendous burden that the state can ill afford.

Each year, 443,000 people die in the US from tobacco-related illnesses and secondhand smoke exposure.

Yet, amidst an overall lackluster year for nationwide tobacco control, Pennsylvania stood out by receiving a bit more state funding, while other public health programs received no funding or damaging cuts.

In 2012, the progress on closing the loopholes in the clean indoor air laws halted. Throughout 2013, the American Lung Association in Pennsylvania will focus on getting these laws passed, protecting the lungs of millions of Pennsylvanians.

Tobacco companies continue to introduce and promote new products, such as candy-flavored cigars and dissolvable tobacco products. Youth, people who are low income, Hispanics and LGBT who smoke cigars are more likely to smoke flavored cigars, according to a recent study in Nicotine and Tobacco Research. Meanwhile, the sales and popularity of these tobacco products have surged in large part due to their cheaper price. Each day, roughly 3,000 youth smoke a cigar for the first time. The American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic calls on Pennsylvania to raise taxes on tobacco products other than cigarettes to achieve tax parity. Currently, there is $1.60 taxed per pack of 20 cigarettes.

“Opportunities abound in the year ahead,” continued Brown. “While no state earned an A or B on its report card for cessation, the Affordable Care Act creates new pathways to help smokers quit. That is why Pennsylvania must include a cessation benefit in its Essential Health Benefit and Medicaid expansion plans.”

“Money is not a barrier to combatting tobacco-caused disease,” said Brown. “It is greed and lack of political will that continues to bind us to Big Tobacco. Our state elected officials have an opportunity to change course in 2013, and make big strides in the fight to end tobacco-caused death and disease.”

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