Tennessee Fails in Three of Four Areas of Tobacco Prevention:

American Lung Association Report Card

NASHVILLE TN (01/20/2011)(readMedia)-- Tennessee's tobacco control policies earned mixed grades, with failing marks for Tobacco Prevention and Control Spending, the Cigarette Tax, and Smoking Cessation, and a C for Smokefree Air 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.

"For Tennessee, it is time to move forward with renewed resolve to reduce the devastating levels of death and disease caused by tobacco use," said Dr. William Lawson, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, and a member of the American Lung Association's Regional Leadership Council.

"When states earn low or failing grades, the result is human tragedy. The report card clearly shows where Tennessee can do dramatically better," Dr. Lawson added. "In 2010, the American Lung Association and CHART worked hard to defend the Smoke-free Tennessee law. This year we will pursue improvements in what Medicaid covers with regards to Smoking Cessation Counseling and Medications. Currently, only pregnant women are covered as required by federal law."

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.

But most states including Tennessee lagged far behind, the report says, in urging swift and forceful action at the state level to fight the tobacco epidemic.

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 9,709 deaths in Tennessee. In addition, it costs the state's economy $5,135,105,000 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.

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 an "A" for FDA regulation of tobacco products; a "C" for cessation coverage provided fewer than 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 both the state and federal government," said Betsy Janes, Director of Advocacy in Tennessee and Kentucky, of the American Lung Association of the Midland States. "The annual report card spells out what we're doing right and where we must work harder to achieve that vision."