American Lung Association: Wisconsin must work harder to prevent tobacco-caused disease and death

Contact: Dona Wininsky 262-703-4840
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Wisconsin must work harder to prevent tobacco-caused disease and death

Brookfield, WI – WI is a leader in some areas, but falls short in others to protect children and curb tobacco-related disease in 2011 according to the American Lung Association’sState of Tobacco Control 2012 report.

The Lung Association’s annual report card on tobacco control monitors progress on key tobacco control policies at the federal and state levels and assigns grades to assess whether laws are protecting citizens from the terrible health burden caused by tobacco use. Now in its 10th year of publication, the Lung Association graded all 50 states and the District of Columbia on four proven policies to save lives and cut healthcare costs. These are tobacco prevention and control program funding; smokefree air laws; cigarette tax rates; and coverage of cessation treatments and services, to help smokers quit.

Wisconsin’s grades were:
Tobacco Prevention and Control Funding – F
Smokefree Air – A
Cigarette Tax Rate – B
Coverage of Cessation Treatments and Services — F

Wisconsin is one of over 25 states that protect its citizens from secondhand smoke, yet continues to cut funding for time-tested prevention and cessation programs that save lives and health care costs. In the meantime, the tobacco industry is constantly developing new products to replace smokers who quit or die of tobacco related illnesses.

“If Wisconsin pursues smart strategies identified in the report for better protecting its citizens from tobacco’s dangers, it will save countless lives and health care dollars,” said Sue Swan, Executive Director of the American Lung Association in Wisconsin.

In 2011, the Lung Association and its partners worked to educate parents, teachers, and lawmakers on new flavored products that look, smell, and are packaged like candy and breath mints. Unlike cigarettes, which are taxed at $2.52 per pack, the 8thhighest in the nation, these products are taxed at much lower rates and are therefore less expensive. Coupled with their enticing flavors and colorful packaging, they are highly attractive to underage users (See attached photos).

Although youth and adult smoking rates declined slowly over the past decade, the decline has been inconsistent. Wisconsin’s smoking rates are:
Adults – 19.5%
High School Students – 20.7%
Middle School Students – 4.3%
Expectant Mothers – 14.9%

Tobacco use continues to reap a devastating toll. Each year, 443,000 people died from tobacco-related illnesses and secondhand smoke exposure. Tobacco causes an estimated 7,240 Wisconsin deaths annually and costs the state’s economy $3.7 billion in healthcare costs and lost productivity.

“Despite our successes, the tobacco industry is not going to sit back and let us erode their customer base. They’re always working to develop new ways to circumvent tobacco control laws and dilute our educational efforts. The enormity of the challenge facing us requires combined resources at both the state and federal levels,” said Swan. “Failure isn’t an option, because our end goal is removing tobacco’s chokehold on America’s health, and that’s a life-and-death matter.”