Jan. 20, 2011 -- Federal efforts to reduce smoking in the United States are being applauded by the American Lung Association, but the group says most states are still doing far too little to help smokers quit and keep nonsmokers from starting.
In its ninth annual State of Tobacco Control report, the American Lung Association (ALA) tracked the progress of national and state tobacco control initiatives during 2010.
The implementation of landmark antismoking legislation and the passage of health care reform last spring were hailed as major steps forward in the national effort to lower smoking rates.
As a result, federal officials received a passing grade from the group, while most states failed to make significant progress.
“President Obama and the 111th Congress enacted the strongest tobacco control policies in American history, but we still have a long way to go,” ALA President Charles D. Connor said at a news briefing.
He added that most states are “failing miserably” in their tobacco control efforts.
“Despite collecting millions of dollars and in some cases billions in tobacco settlement money and excise taxes, most states are investing only pennies of those dollars to help smokers quit and keep kids from starting,” Connor said.
The report noted that tobacco prevention and smoking cessation have emerged as the major initiatives in the federal government’s antismoking initiatives.
The Tobacco Control Act, signed into law in 2009, gave the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products. Key provisions include strengthening restrictions on the sale and marketing of tobacco products to children and teens and the removal of misleading terms like “light,” “mild,” and “low-tar” from cigarette labeling.
And the sweeping health care reform law mandates coverage of tobacco cessation treatments by most private health care insurers. It also requires that the states offer these treatments to low-income pregnant women who receive Medicaid.
But Much More Could Be Done
These changes raised the federal government’s grade for smoking cessation coverage from an F to a C. But the failure to offer such coverage to all Medicaid recipients will end up costing taxpayers money, the group claims.
“Medicaid recipients smoke at rates that are almost 60% higher than the general population, and the cost of not helping these smokers quit is sky high,” ALA Vice President for National Policy and Advocacy Paul Billings said Wednesday.
Nationwide, about 36% of low-income Americans on Medicaid smoke, compared to about 22% of adults nationwide. Billings said about $1 of every $10 spent on health care under the federal program can be attributed to tobacco-related illness.
“Millions of Americans will be able to receive needed help to quit smoking under the Affordable Care Act, but many of the people who need the help the most will slip through the cracks.”