Let’s Finish the Fight Against Tobacco
Elected officials must accelerate proven strategies
Posted by: Editor | Aug 20, 2012
Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, has written an op-ed in The Huffington Post warning against complacency in the fight against tobacco use and calling on elected officials in the United States to finish the fight against the nation’s number one cause of preventable death.
While the U.S. has made enormous progress, tobacco use still kills 443,000 Americans and costs the nation nearly $200 billion in health care bills and lost productivity every year. About 45 million adults still smoke and nearly 4,000 kids try their first cigarette each day.
To their credit, President Obama and his Administration have made it a priority to reinvigorate the fight against tobacco use. In 2009, the President signed the landmark law giving the Food and Drug Administration authority over tobacco products, which curbed tobacco marketing and sales to kids, banned terms such as “light” and “low-tar” that falsely imply a safer cigarette and, pending the outcome of an industry lawsuit, will require large, graphic health warnings on cigarette packs.
The health care reform law expanded coverage for quit-smoking treatments and provided dedicated funding for disease prevention initiatives, including those to reduce tobacco use. A 2009 increase in the federal tobacco tax significantly reduced cigarette sales. This year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched an unprecedented advertising campaign to discourage smoking.
Unfortunately, many states have moved backwards. In the past four years, states slashed budgets for already-underfunded tobacco prevention and quit-smoking programs by 36 percent. They collect more than $25 billion a year from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but spend less than two percent of it to combat tobacco use. The states’ progress has also slowed in enacting tobacco tax increases and smoke-free air laws.
The op-ed concludes, “Our progress has driven tobacco out of sight and out of mind for many Americans. But it remains an insidious killer that claims too many lives, addicts too many children, costs too many health care dollars and devastates too many families. We know how to win the fight against this killer, but it will require political leadership and resources that match the scope of the problem.”