CDC Report: States Need to Regain… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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CDC Report: States Need to Regain Momentum on Tobacco Taxes, Smoke-Free Laws

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
June 16, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new report issued today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) underscores the need for states to step up the fight against tobacco – the nation’s No. 1 cause of preventable death – by redoubling their efforts to increase tobacco taxes and pass comprehensive smoke-free workplace laws. The report shows that state progress in implementing these proven measures has slowed greatly in recent years. States lack excuses for failing to do more. As the report confirms, there is conclusive evidence that tobacco tax increases and smoke-free laws work to prevent kids from smoking, encourage smokers to quit and protect non-smokers from secondhand smoke, thereby saving lives and health care dollars.

The report, published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, looks at state progress in enacting cigarette tax increases and smoke-free laws from 2000 to 2014. Key findings include:

  • From 2000 to 2009, 46 states and the District of Columbia increased cigarette taxes, raising the average state cigarette tax by $0.92 per pack. However, from 2010 to 2014, only 14 states and D.C. increased cigarette taxes, raising the average state tax by $0.20.

  • From 2000 to 2009, 21 states and D.C. implemented comprehensive smoke-free laws prohibiting smoking in all indoor workplaces, including restaurants and bars. From 2010 to 2014, only five states did so (California this year closed loopholes in its smoke-free law, making it comprehensive as well).

  • There are significant regional disparities in implementing these life-saving measures. Most states in the South lack comprehensive smoke-free protections. In addition, at the end of 2014, southern states had an average cigarette tax of $0.96 per pack, well below the overall state average of $1.54 per pack. As a result, many southern states have higher rates of smoking and related diseases such as lung cancer.

Fortunately, several states have immediate opportunities for progress. This November, voters in California, Colorado and North Dakota will vote on ballot initiatives to raise their respective tobacco taxes by $2.00, $1.75 and $1.76. Tobacco companies are certain to spend huge sums against these measures because they know tobacco taxes work to reduce smoking. Voters should see through the industry’s deception and approve these needed increases.

There is a strong correlation between state smoking rates and whether states have implemented effective tobacco control measures. Based on current data, a Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids analysis found that the 10 states with the lowest adult smoking rates have an average cigarette tax of $2.64, and 9 of the 10 have smoke-free laws that include restaurants and bars. In contrast, the 11 states with the highest smoking rates (two states are tied for 10th) have an average cigarette tax of just $0.90, and only 1 of the 11 have smoke-free laws that include restaurants and bars.

The United States has made enormous progress in reducing smoking, with both adult and youth smoking rates falling to record lows of 15.1 percent and 10.8 percent respectively in 2015. However, tobacco use still kills nearly half a million Americans and costs our nation about $170 billion a year in health care bills.

In recent years, progress has been driven by action at the national level. Key steps have included the 62-cent increase in the federal cigarette tax implemented in 2009; the landmark 2009 law that gave the Food and Drug Administration authority over tobacco products; expanded coverage for smoking cessation treatments under the Affordable Care Act; and the strongest and most sustained media campaigns to reduce tobacco use in the nation’s history (conducted by the CDC, the FDA and Truth Initiative). We must continue and step up these efforts.

Today’s CDC report is a timely reminder that the states must do their part as well. In addition to increasing tobacco taxes and passing smoke-free laws, states should boost funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs and raise the age of sale for tobacco products to 21 (as California, Hawaii and at least 155 localities have done).

It is within our reach to win the fight against tobacco and make the next generation tobacco-free, but only if elected officials at all levels fully implement what we know works.