American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control 2014 Report Calls on Massachusetts to Renew Its Commitment to Eliminate Tobacco-Caused Death and Disease
The Bay State stands out nationally as one of few states to make strides in preventing tobacco-caused disease and death
WALTHAM – The battle to reduce tobacco use has all but stalled in most states, but Massachusetts stands out as one of the few to make positive headway in preventing tobacco-caused illness and death. Massachusetts not only increased their cigarette tax by $1, making it the second highest in the nation and therefore earning an ‘A’ grade, but the state also added coverage of tobacco cessation counseling for state employees and standardized benefits across all state employee health plans. However, none of the increase in tax revenue will fund tobacco cessation. Those were the findings of the American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control 2014 report released today.
Less than a week after the release of the 50th anniversary U.S. Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health, State of Tobacco Control 2014 issues an urgent call to action to policymakers across the country to reverse their present course and commit to eliminating tobacco-caused death and disease. The latest Surgeon General’s report warns 5.6 million of today’s youth will die from tobacco use unless swift action is taken.
“Massachusetts has the distinction of being one of the few states to make progress in the fight against tobacco use in 2013, however, our report card on tobacco control is still not one any parent will be proudly hanging on their refrigerator,” said Ronald Dorris, M.D., board member for the American Lung Association in Massachusetts. “The Patrick administration is failing to invest in vital resources that help keep kids from starting to smoke and provide smokers with the tools they so desperately need to quit. Meanwhile, Big Tobacco continues to rob Massachusetts residents of their health and employ clever tactics to lure new youth smokers.”
Massachusetts received the following grades for 2013:
Tobacco Prevention Control and Spending
The failure of the federal and state governments to implement proven policies resulted in 20 million preventable deaths from tobacco use from 1964-2014, including 2.5 million from secondhand smoke. The 2014 Surgeon General’s report found that almost half a million lives are unnecessarily lost each year due to tobacco, as well as $280 billion in healthcare costs and lost productivity.
The Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control 2014, its 12th annual report, tracks yearly 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. Tobacco-related diseases, such as lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), other cancers, heart disease and stroke kill almost half a million Americans each year.
“With Friday’s release of the 50th anniversary Surgeon General’s report on Smoking and Health, Acting U.S. Surgeon General Rear Admiral (RADM) Boris D. Lushniak, M.D., M.P.H declared “enough is enough” and that we must do more if we are going to protect Americans from the burden of tobacco use,” said Jeff Seyler, President & CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast. “Smoking is responsible for almost 500,000 deaths in this country annually and our state leaders must act now so that we may prevent more Americans from getting sick and dying from tobacco-related disease. The battle against the tobacco epidemic is not over.”
Tobacco causes an estimated 9,017 deaths in Massachusetts annually and costs the state’s economy $5 billion in healthcare costs and lost productivity, a tremendous burden that our state can ill afford.
While there was substantial progress to reduce tobacco caused death and disease in 2013 in Massachusetts, priorities that need to be addressed to improve Massachusetts’ State of Tobacco Control© grades in 2014 include:
restricting the sale of tobacco products at health care institutions such as pharmacies,
increasing funding to state tobacco prevention and cessation programs,
passing legislation that would prohibit smoking in vehicles with children in restraints,
and requiring minimum cigar packaging for cigars retailing for less than $2.50 per cigar.
“Smokers want to quit and Massachusetts has a responsibility to help, especially to help those who can least afford it. Helping smokers quit saves lives and money. Sadly, not a single state earned an ‘A’ grade for cessation in our State of Tobacco Control 2014 report,” explained Dr. Dorris. “Massachusetts policymakers must act now to ensure that as we transition to healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act, all residents have access to a comprehensive tobacco cessation benefit.”
Meanwhile, the tobacco industry continued its ruthless pursuit of addicting new users and keeping current users from quitting in 2013. This included efforts at the federal and state levels to exempt their products from meaningful public health protections.
The three largest cigarette manufacturers—Altria, Reynolds American, and Lorillard—continued their aggressive expansion into other tobacco products in 2013. As cigarette use continues to gradually decline, these companies continue to maintain their power over America’s youth and reap profits from smokeless tobacco, cigars and now e-cigarettes.
“We urge everyone in Massachusetts to join with the American Lung Association in renewing their commitment to preventing another 50 years of tobacco-caused death and disease,” continued Seyler.
About the American Lung Association of the Northeast
The American Lung Association of the Northeast is part of the American Lung Association, the oldest voluntary health organization in the U.S. Established in 1904 to combat tuberculosis; our mission today is to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. The focus is on air quality, asthma, tobacco control, and all lung disease. The American Lung Association in the Northeast serves CT, MA, ME, NH, NY, RI and VT. www.LungNE.org