Federal Government Fails to Regulate Tobacco and Protect Public Health, American Lung Association Report Finds
In Contrast, Some States Step Up Efforts to Ban Smoking in Bars and Restaurants and Raise Cigarette Taxes
NEW YORK, NY -- 01/06/2005 -- Despite the high economic and human costs of smoking, the federal government failed to enact strong national tobacco control policies in 2004, including failing to pass Food and Drug Administration regulation of tobacco products, according to the American Lung Association’s “State of Tobacco Control 2004” report. For the first time, the annual report -- which previously included only state-by-state report cards -- rates the federal government’s record on tobacco regulation and prevention. It gives Congress and the White House failing grades.
“Last year, the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives squandered a historic opportunity to pass meaningful regulation of tobacco products,” said John L. Kirkwood, president and CEO of the American Lung Association. “The failure to enact FDA authority gives the tobacco industry a pass to continue to market a new wave of products, including candy-flavored cigarettes -- Camel Kauai Kolada, Camel Warm Mocha Mint, Kool Mixx Midnight Berry -- that are clearly being marketed to children and teens.”
In contrast, a number of state and local governments have stepped up their efforts to enact strong tobacco control policies by passing laws protecting people from secondhand smoke and increasing cigarette taxes. In 2004, states and communities across the country -- from Idaho to Rhode Island and from Columbus, OH to Lexington, KY -- achieved smokefree workplaces. Efforts to enact smokefree air laws have gained momentum, and the American Lung Association is fighting community-by-community, state-by-state to protect all citizens from secondhand smoke.
Federal Government Receives Poor Marks
For the national report card, the American Lung Association examined four areas:
1) FDA regulation of tobacco products - The U.S. House of Representatives blocked legislation to grant the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco products, which would regulate youth access and marketing of these products. Grade: F
2) Smoking cessation policies - Congress failed to implement and fund the National Action Plan for Tobacco Cessation, which would provide a national quitline, media campaign, federal funding of cessation benefits and a smokers’ fund to assist people trying to quit. Grade: F
3) Cigarette taxes - The current federal excise tax on cigarettes is 39 cents per pack. Congress failed to raise this tax by $2 per pack as recommended by the National Action Plan for Tobacco Cessation, which would generate revenue for smoking cessation programs. Grade: F
4) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control - This international treaty sets standards that countries can adopt to control tobacco use and addiction. To date, 40 countries have ratified this treaty. The president has signed the treaty, but has not sent it to the U.S. Senate for ratification. Grade: D
States Receive Mixed Marks
State legislatures and city councils made strides to protect the public health in 2004. For the state-by-state report card, the American Lung Association examined funding for tobacco prevention and control programs, smokefree air, cigarette taxes and youth access to tobacco products.
States Continue to Cut Tobacco Prevention Programs
Despite multiple studies showing that tobacco prevention programs save lives and money, states continued to underfund tobacco prevention programs. Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia received an F for program funding. Six years after the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), through which the tobacco industry committed billions to states to recover states’ tobacco-related health care costs, only five states -- Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine and Mississippi -- have sustained the commitment of significantly funding tobacco prevention and cessation programs. States that have implemented comprehensive tobacco prevention programs have seen large decreases in smoking rates. Maine’s successful tobacco prevention program has resulted in a 48 percent drop in high school students who smoke and a 59 percent decrease in smoking among middle school students.
Smokefree Laws Spread to More States and Cities
The trend toward smokefree air laws continued to gain momentum with Idaho, Massachusetts and Rhode Island passing laws to protect people from secondhand smoke in the workplace. In addition, cities across the country made the decision to go smokefree. Included were Lawrence, KS; Columbus, OH; Lincoln, NE; and Minneapolis, MN. In a major victory for public health, the Kentucky Supreme Court upheld a smokefree air ordinance passed in 2003 in Lexington.
Prohibiting smoking in the workplace can have an immediate and dramatic impact on the health of workers and patrons. Research shows that in Helena, MT, hearts attacks fell by 40 percent after a smokefree air ordinance was enacted.
Thirty-three states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico received an F for smokefree air.
Average State Cigarette Excise Tax Continues to Rise
Eleven states raised their cigarette taxes in 2004, increasing the average state cigarette tax by 12 cents to 84 cents per pack. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have a tax of $1 or more. Three states -- Michigan, New Jersey and Rhode Island -- are at or over $2 per pack. Voters in three states -- Colorado, Montana and Oklahoma -- successfully raised the tobacco tax through ballot measures. Virginia, home of tobacco giant Philip Morris, raised its cigarette tax from 2.5 cents to 20 cents per pack -- the first increase since 1960.
Significant cigarette tax increases motivate smokers to quit and prevent kids from starting. In one year, after a major increase in the cigarette tax and passage of a smokefree air law, 100,000 New Yorkers quit smoking.
Twelve states received an F in cigarette taxes. While a number of states significantly raised their cigarette taxes in 2004, many states still fail to set cigarette taxes at a level that will significantly deter children from smoking.
Restricting Youth Access to Tobacco
Every day, 6,000 children under the age of 18 smoke for the first time and nearly 2,000 of them begin smoking on a daily basis. The earlier a smoker starts, the more likely he or she is to die from tobacco use. The American Lung Association strongly supports the enactment and enforcement of policies to restrict the sale and distribution of tobacco products to minors.
In 2004, seven states received an A for limiting youth access to tobacco. Oklahoma passed a law prohibiting sales of tobacco products by self-service display and made changes to other youth access laws governing random inspections and increased penalties for retailers. New Jersey passed a law barring the sale of single cigarettes in packs of less than 20, and Arizona, Hawaii, Illinois and Kansas passed laws restricting tobacco sales over the Internet. Twenty-three states received an F in youth access.
The American Lung Association “State of Tobacco Control 2004” is a report card that evaluates federal and state tobacco control laws against recognized criteria and translates each state’s relative progress into a letter grade comprised of A, B, C, D or F. A grade of A is assigned to excellent state policy, while an F indicates inadequate state laws. The complete methodology and score calculations are included in the report and can be found online at www.lungusa.org.
About the American Lung Association
For 100 years, the American Lung Association has been the leading organization working to prevent lung disease and promote lung health. Lung disease death rates continue to increase while other leading causes of death have declined. The American Lung Association funds vital research on the causes of and treatments for lung disease. With the generous support of the public, the American Lung Association is “Improving life, one breath at a time.” For more information about the American Lung Association call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or log on to www.lungusa.org.
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