Editorial: A smoky haze

State must do better to limit tobacco use among children
Jan. 20, 2013 @ 11:50 PM

Smoking is a legal activity, but most would agree that the goal is to limit if not stop the use of tobacco among children. On that score, Tennessee has failed miserably, according to the American Lung Association’s “State of Tobacco Control 2013” report released last week.

Tennessee has failed to make progress toward protecting children from Big Tobacco’s marketing tactics by neglecting to invest in programs and policies proven to reduce tobacco use, according to the report. That’s a troubling conclusion from an agency that seeks to protect people’s health and to keep cobaretets away from kids.

The American Lung Association’s “State of Tobacco Control” report tracks progress on tobacco control policies at the federal and state level, assigning grades based on whether laws are adequately protecting citizens. The 11th annual report shows how money is often at the root of the leading cause of preventable death, the agency says, as state and federal policymakers are “failing to battle a deep-pocketed, ever-evolving tobacco industry.”

Tennessee received the following grades for 2012:

- Tobacco Prevention and Control Program Funding: F

- Cigarette Tax: F

- Smokefree Air: C

- Cessation Coverage: D.

“Tennessee 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 Ellen Kershaw, advocacy director, American Lung Association in Tennessee. Tobacco causes an estimated 9,709 deaths in Tennessee annually and costs the state’s economy $5.1 billion in healthcare costs and lost productivity.

Although Tennessee receives $581 million in tobacco-related revenue annually, it only invests 3 percent of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends should be spent on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, the report says. “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.

Tennessee can and should do better. Smoke-free public buildings are not enough. Let’s make an improved grade a priority.