Delaware took steps forward to reduce tobacco use in some areas, but 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 Delaware receives $152 million in tobacco-related revenue annually, it spends only 70.8 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.
Delaware received the following grades for 2012.
• B in Funding for Tobacco Prevention and Control Programs
• A in Smokefree Air
• C in Cigarette Tax
• D in Cessation Coverage
While Delaware does a better job than most states, it still is neglecting to both properly invest its annual tobacco settlement funds and to increase tobacco taxes. These two steps would enable the state to implement proven tactics that save lives and reduce tobacco-related disease.
“Delaware must make it a priority to pass policies that keep kids off tobacco and help smokers quit,” said Deb Brown, president and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic. “That starts with legislation which would make the tax on tobacco products other than cigarettes, such as moist snuff, cigars, blunts and roll-your-own tobacco, equivalent to the cigarette tax. This would discourage smokers from using these products instead of quitting.”
Tobacco causes an estimated 1,196 deaths in Delaware annually and costs the state’s economy $678 million in healthcare costs and lost productivity, a tremendous burden that the state can ill afford. Each year, 443,000 people die in the U.S. from tobacco-related illnesses and secondhand smoke exposure.
Yet, amidst an overall lackluster year for nationwide tobacco control, Delaware stood out by celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Clean Indoor Air Act and receiving another “A” in smokefree air.
In 2013, as Delaware approaches decisions regarding the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the American Lung Association will advocate for programs and services that provide patient access to treatment and services for lung-related health conditions, many of which are caused by tobacco use.
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 Delaware 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 Delaware 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.”