The American Lung Association recently published its 13th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report that reveals how both states and the federal government have come up short on important policies for the prevention of disease and death resulting from tobacco use.
Of all the preventable causes of death and disease, tobacco use continues to rank number one in the United States. Over 392,000 people die annually from tobacco-caused diseases, and 50,000 people from exposure to secondhand smoke, with an estimated cost of $333 billion in healthcare and lost productivity every year.
Three major goals were established in 2014 by the American Lung Association and collaborators that required immediate action in terms of tobacco use. These were:
- To decrease smoking rates to less than 10 percent by 2024 (it is currently around 18 percent).
- To protect all Americans from secondhand smoke by 2019.
- To eventually abolish the disease and death caused by tobacco use.
The report concluded, however, that several states and the federal government were unsuccessful in establishing tobacco control policies in order to stop the tobacco epidemic. “The American Lung Association is urging states and the federal government to take needed steps to achieve these bold goals,” said Harold Wimmer, President and CEO of the American Lung Association. “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.”
At state level, there was not much activity in tobacco control policies in 2014. Between smoke-free laws, increase in tobacco taxes or encouragement for smoking cessation treatments, none were reported. Only two states – Alaska and North Dakota – allocated funds for tobacco prevention programs, according to the recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
At the federal government level, some progress was observed, with the approval of a key policy stating that three forms of counseling and the seven FDA-approved medications should be covered by insurance companies to help smokers quit. In contrast, major issues such as tobacco taxes and implementation of the government’s regulatory authority over all tobacco products were not addressed.
The government is also studying a controversial proposal regarding the exclusion of certain tobacco products from Food and Drug Administration (FDA) control. “Exempting any kind of dangerous and addictive tobacco product proven to cause lung disease, including lung cancer is unacceptable,” declared Wimmer. “Ending the tobacco epidemic can only happen if the FDA has broad authority and acts aggressively to protect American women, men and children from all tobacco products, including cigars.”