Lung association urges states to spend more to fight tobacco

By BenefitsPro


By Dan Cook

States spent more in 2013 to battle tobacco use. But that increase wasn’t enough in the eyes of the medical profession, which is pressing for a more powerful campaign to address the half-a-million Americans who die from tobacco-related illnesses each year.

The American Lung Association, in releasing its review of 2013 anti-tobacco measures, noted that the amount spent by states increased by 4 percent (to $485.5 million) over 2012 expenditures. But it also pointed out that 40 states and the District of Columbia “failed to fund their tobacco prevention programs at even half of the Centers for Disease Control level.”

Only anti-tobacco spending by Alaska and North Dakota met the standards set by the CDC.

Meanwhile, the tobacco industry has been throwing a lot of marketing weight behind its latest tobacco-related product, e-cigarettes. These emerging products can be made to look exactly like cigarettes. They use batteries to vaporize nicotine (sometimes with tasty flavors) to give the user a nicotine fix without the tars present in real tobacco. Much of the marketing, the lung association said, is aimed at teenagers.

The association and others have raised concerns that e-cigarette use could lead to nicotine dependency, as well as creating the habit of having a cigarette for social status purposes. These potential outcomes of picking up the habit of e-smoking could lead to the direct use of tobacco, they suggest.

The association’s chief concern, after its analysis of 2013 anti-tobacco efforts, is that a vigorous marketing push by the tobacco industry is not being offset by an aggressive anti-tobacco campaign by state and federal bodies.

Much of a state’s budget for anti-tobacco programs is generated through taxes on cigarettes. The ALA said only Massachusetts and Minnesota approved “significant hikes” in cigarette taxes last year, “and no state approved a comprehensive smoke-free workplace law.”

“We are faced with a deep-pocketed, ever-evolving tobacco industry that’s determined to maintain its market share at the expense of our kids and current smokers,” Harold Wimmer, ALA national president and CEO, said in a statement from the group. “In the absence of any meaningful action by state and federal policymakers, an ever-changing Big Tobacco will continue to gain more customers unless our nation’s leaders step up to fund programs and enact policies proven to make tobacco history.”

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