Kentucky Gets Failing Grade in Tobacco Control

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FLOYD COUNTY TIMES | SMOKE-FREE KENTUCKY | JANUARY 22, 2015

Kentucky receives straight F’s in tobacco control initiatives again this year.

The 13th annual American Lung Association “State of Tobacco Control 2015” report evaluates states and the federal government on the tobacco control laws and policies necessary to achieve the following goals nationally:

Reduce smoking rates, currently 18 percent, to less than 10 percent by 2024

Protect all Americans from secondhand smoke by 2019

Ultimately eliminate death and disease caused by tobacco use

“State of Tobacco Control 2015” finds state level progress on proven tobacco control policies all-but stalled in 2014. Kentucky’s failing grades reflect this trend of missed opportunities by our elected officials to pass proven policies that will reduce tobacco use and save lives. Kentucky received the following grades:

Tobacco Prevention and Control Program Funding – Grade F

Kentucky falls behind on CDC recommended funding for cessation services. The investment per smoker is $.25 compared to the average investment per smoker at $3.63.

Tobacco Taxes – Grade F

Kentucky still has one of the lowest tobacco taxes in the country at a rate of $.60 per pack.

Smoke-free Air – Grade F

Kentucky has passed 24 local smoke-free ordinances but the majority of workers are still unprotected. A statewide comprehensive smoke-free law needs to be passed in 2015.

Access to Cessation Services – Grade F

There are still barriers to cessation services for many of the poorest citizens in Kentucky who need it most.

You can see how the rest of the country scored at www.stateoftobaccocontrol.org.

“I am taking a group of kids to the capitol next month to advocate for a statewide smoke-free law. We would never tolerate Fs from these students and yet we are all content with the state legislature receiving straight Fs on their tobacco control report card. It’s time for Kentucky’s legislature to take a hint from our kids and perform better on their report card. This performance would benefit our kids by setting the right example and by saving lives in the process” said Shelly Steiner, who is a former Kentucky teacher and currently leads her local drug-free coalition.

Kentucky leads the nation in smoking and lung cancer. The best thing Kentucky can do right now to address its terrible health rankings, is to pass a comprehensive, statewide smoke-free law.

The American Lung Association is part of Smoke-Free Kentucky; a coalition of health and business organizations working to pass legislation to make a real impact on the health of Kentuckians by reducing the amount of exposure to secondhand smoke in public places and workplaces.

State Rep. Susan Westrom (D-Lexington) has introduced HB 145 to prohibit smoking in public places and places of employment statewide. Nearly identical bills have been introduced for the past four years, but not one has made it to a floor vote in either chamber. The 2015 General Assembly needs to change the course of smoke-free legislation and the health of our state.

Now is the time for legislators to take bold action to address tobacco-caused disease and death and pass legislation that would protect workers from secondhand smoke. It’s time that Kentucky receives an A in something related to health.