Michigan Fails to Protect Citizens from Tobacco-Caused Disease and Death

New American Lung Association Report Follows Money Trail to See How Tobacco Industry Addicts Kids

LANSING MI (01/16/2013)(readMedia)-- [EMBARGOED UNTIL: 5 a.m. (EST), January 16, 2013]

Michigan failed to protect children from Big Tobacco's marketing tactics by neglecting to invest in programs and policies proven to reduce tobacco use according to the American Lung Association's "State of Tobacco Control 2013" report released today.

The American 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.

Michigan received the following grades for 2012:

• Tobacco Prevention and Control Program Funding: F

• Smokefree Air: B

• Cigarette Tax: C

• Cessation Coverage: F

"Michigan has the unfortunate distinction of failing to make progress in the fight against tobacco use in 2012, meanwhile Big Tobacco was busy honing clever new tactics to lure new youth smokers," said Shelly Kiser, Director of Advocacy, American Lung Association in Michigan.

Tobacco causes an estimated 15,000 deaths in Michigan annually and costs the state's economy $7 billion in healthcare costs and lost productivity, a tremendous burden that our state can ill afford.

Although Michigan receives $1.2 billion in tobacco-related revenue annually, it only invests a meager four percent of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends should be spent on tobacco prevention and cessation programs. The failure of states across the U.S. to invest in policies and programs to reduce tobacco use has resulted in 3 million new youth and young smokers in the United States, according to the Surgeon General's 2012 report.

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.

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 in Michigan calls on Michigan lawmakers to raise taxes on tobacco products other than cigarettes to achieve tax parity.

Priorities that need to be addressed to improve Michigan's "State of Tobacco Control" grades for 2013 include:

• Tax non-cigarette forms of tobacco at the same rate as cigarettes and use the resulting revenue to fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

• Provide consistent, easy to access best practice cessation to the 45% of Medicaid recipients who smoke in Michigan.

"It's time Michigan removes Big Tobacco's welcome mat," said Kiser. "Leaders in Lansing must provide smokers with the support they need to quit and adequately fund programs that help keep our kids off tobacco."

We can no longer allow the Wolverine State to be the tobacco industry's playground," added Kiser. "It's going to take a great deal of political will, but we are confident our elected officials are up to the challenge. Our kids and current smokers are depending on them for help."