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Lung Association Press Release

ALASKA RECEIVES MIXED GRADES IN AMERICAN LUNG ASSOCIATION’S STATE OF TOBACCO CONTROL REPORT

ANCHORAGE, AK (Embargoed until January 20, 2011 at 3 am EST) – Alaska’s tobacco control policies earned mixed grades, with low marks for smokefree air and cessation and C or above grades for tobacco prevention and control spending and taxes in the American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control 2010 Report, which 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 burden caused by tobacco use.

“Alaska has demonstrated leadership in funding tobacco prevention and control programs,” said Renée Klein, president and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mountain Pacific.  “Alaska is one of two states receiving an A grade in this category and we congratulate Alaska for this commitment.”

“There is more work to be done,” said Klein.  “The single most important policy change that Alaska can do to further protect Alaskans from the health effects of tobacco is protecting its citizens with smokefree laws.  There is no safe level of exposure for secondhand smoke, and passing a comprehensive state-wide law would be a huge step in protecting Alaskans from this deadly toxin.”

The American Lung Association report also applauds huge strides by the federal government, which began to heavily restrict tobacco marketing to kids, banning misleading cigarette descriptors and greatly expanding benefits for treatments to help people quit smoking.

The American Lung Association report shows vital action on some fronts in the fight against tobacco, yet it also underscores tobacco’s grim national toll. Each year 443,000 people die from tobacco-related illnesses and secondhand smoke exposure, making tobacco the leading cause of preventable death. It is responsible for an estimated 488 deaths in Alaska and costs the state’s economy almost $500 million annually in healthcare costs and lost productivity.

It takes combined state and federal resources to reduce tobacco-related diseases, which are the byproduct of an adaptable industry, engaged in deadly deception. In 2010, the industry used new ways to push its products and target kids in a drive to replace dying customers. These tactics ranged from color-coding packaging in order to falsely imply less harmful cigarettes, to pitching smokeless tobacco in order to get more young people hooked and keep current smokers addicted.

State Grades

Eight states -- Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia – received all “F’s”, and no state earned straight “A’s” in State of Tobacco Control 2010.

The 50 states and District of Columbia were graded on tobacco prevention and control program funding; smokefree air laws; cigarette tax rates; and coverage of cessation treatments and services, designed to help smokers quit. These categories draw on four proven policies to save lives and cut health care costs.

For the first time, the report card also provided a more complete picture of a state’s cessation efforts by including data about quitlines in the state cessation grade. Quitlines are free, phone-based programs that provide services to help callers quit tobacco use.

A number of  states continued in 2010 to rely on cigarette taxes for new revenues to help balance budgets, but they did not use part of the revenues to help smokers quit, according to the American Lung Association report.

Six states raised cigarette excise taxes. Higher prices will encourage smokers to try to quit, but most smokers who ended up paying more for a cigarette pack got no additional help from the state to end their addiction to tobacco. South Carolina was a notable exception.

Only Kansas passed a strong smokefree air law in 2010.  The pace for passing such laws has declined sharply since 2006-2007, when 16 states and the District of Columbia met the American Lung Association’s Smokefree Air Challenge, a nationwide campaign to eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke in all work and public places.

Federal Grades

The federal government received all passing grades. It drew a “B” for FDA regulation of tobacco products; a “C” for cessation coverage provided under four major federal health care programs; a “D” for the federal cigarette tax; and a “D” for failure to ratify the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an international treaty.

“To finally break tobacco’s grip on America’s health, it takes a harnessing of resources by every state as well as by the federal government,” said Renée Klein of the American Lung Association of the Mountain Pacific. “The annual report card spells out what we’re doing right and where we must work harder to achieve that vision.”

The complete report including federal and state grades is available at www.stateoftobaccocontrol.org.

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