A study by the American Lung Association says the state 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.
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 Arkansas receives $296 million in tobacco-related revenue annually, it spends a meager 54.9 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.
Arkansas received the following grades for 2012:
- Tobacco Prevention & Control Program Funding: D
- Smokefree Air: B
- Cigarette Tax: D
- Cessation Coverage: D
"Arkansas must make it a priority to invest in programs that keep kids off tobacco and to help smokers quit," said Sara Dreiling, Chief Executive Officer of the American Lung Association, Plains-Gulf Region.
Each year, 443,000 people died from tobacco-related illnesses and secondhand smoke exposure. Tobacco causes an estimated 4,915 deaths in Arkansas annually and costs the state's economy $2,271,726,000 in healthcare costs and lost productivity, a tremendous burden that our state can ill afford.
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, Plains-Gulf Region calls on Arkansas to raise taxes on tobacco products other than cigarettes to achieve tax parity.
"Opportunities abound in the year ahead," continued Dreiling. "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 Arkansas must include a cessation benefit in our Essential Health Benefit and Medicaid expansion plans."
"Money is not a barrier to combating tobacco caused disease," said Dreiling. "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."