“State of Tobacco Control 2015” Report Shows Kentucky is Failing to Save Lives

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COMMUNITY COMMON | JANUARY 30, 2015

Today (January 21) the American Lung Association released its 13th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report that found that in 2014 Kentucky failed to enact tobacco control policies that will save lives and help end the tobacco epidemic. The report finds that most states and the federal government earn poor grades, and tobacco control progress is at a standstill.

“It is not acceptable that Kentucky still receives all F’s in tobacco control. Our state will continue to suffer from higher rates of lung disease until we see a change at the state level,” said Barry Gottschalk, CEO of American LungAssociation, Midland States.

“State of Tobacco Control 2015” evaluates tobacco control policies at the federal and state level, and assigns grades based on whether laws protect citizens from the enormous toll tobacco use takes on lives. The new report comes following the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Surgeon General’s report, which first sounded the alarm on the dangers of smoking. Now 51 years later, tobacco use kills almost half a million Americans and causes up to $333 billion in healthcare costs and lost productivity each year.

In 2014, the American Lung Association and its partners called for immediate action on tobacco use by all levels of government to achieve three bold goals:

• Reduce smoking rates, currently at about 18 percent, to less than 10 percent by 2024;

• Protect all Americans from secondhand smoke by 2019; and

• Ultimately eliminate the death and disease caused by tobacco use.

“The American Lung Association is urging states and the federal government to take needed steps to achieve these bold goals,” said Heather Wehrheim, Advocacy Director for American Lung Association in Kentucky. “It’s no secret how to reduce tobacco use in the United States, our state and federal leaders need to muster the political will to implement these proven policies. Our nation cannot afford the health or financial consequences of their continued failure to act.”

Grades for Kentucky

“State of Tobacco Control 2015” finds state level progress on proven tobacco control policies all-but stalled in 2014.

Kentucky’s failing grades reflects this trend of missed opportunities by our elected officials to pass proven policies that will reduce tobacco use and save lives.

• 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 recommended average investment per smoker of $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.

• Smokefree Air – Grade F

Kentucky has passed over 23 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.

Priorities that must be addressed to improve Kentucky’s “State of Tobacco Control” grades in 2015 include:

1. Passing a comprehensive smoke-free law in the state

2. Increasing the tobacco tax by $1.00 per pack and by an equal amount on all other tobacco products; and

3. Increasing funding for tobacco prevention and cessation products.

“Smokefree workplace laws, high tobacco taxes, funding tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-recommended levels and providing insurance coverage for quit smokingtreatments have been proven to reduce tobacco use. All that is missing in Kentucky is the political will from our elected officials,” said Wehrheim.

Health insurance coverage to provide smokers access to all the tools proven to help them quit, was a hot topic again in 2014. All state health insurance commissioners must make sure insurance plans, under their authority, are following the guidance on cessation treatments issued by the federal government in May 2014. The American Lung Association in collaboration with other national health organizations are working with the insurance commissioner in Kentucky to make sure these guidelines are being met.

Overall, no state passed a comprehensive smokefree law or significantly increased tobacco taxes, and not a single state managed to earn an “A” grade for providing access to cessation treatments in this year’s ‘State of Tobacco Control 2015’ report. Only two states are funding their state tobacco prevention programs at the updated levels recommended by CDC.

You can see how other states scored at www.stateoftobaccocontrol.org.

Limited Progress by Federal Government

The federal government took small steps forward this year, but still fell short in important areas, such as tobacco taxes and finalizing its regulatory authority over all tobacco products.

In April, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed to assert authority over all tobacco products including e-cigarettes, little cigars and other tobacco products. The American Lung Association also expressed strong opposition to the Obama Administration’s proposal to exempt certain cigars from basic FDA oversight and that it failed to finalize the proposal by the end of 2014.

On the plus side the federal government issued an important policy clarification making it clear to insurance companies that all seven FDA-approved medications and all three forms of counseling should be covered to help smokers quit.

FDA also launched its youth prevention mass-media campaign, “The Real Cost” and CDC continued its highly successful “Tips from Former Smokers” campaign, which a study released in late 2014 shows has a significant impact with even current modest investments.

“The federal government and each state have a lot of work to do to improve upon this year’s State of Tobacco Control report. I urge everyone to join the American Lung Association in Kentucky and help us tell our state and federal leaders to take action now to save lives,” said Wehrheim.

“State of Tobacco Control 2015” uses updated methodology to reflect the updated 2014 CDC Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs. It also incorporates other tobacco product taxes and tobacco cessation coverage under Medicaid expansion into the grades. Because of revisions to the methodology, all grades from State of Tobacco Control 2015 cannot be directly compared to grades from State of Tobacco Control 2014 or earlier reports.

Read the article online.