Friday, January 11, 2008

The American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control report card assigns only Ds and Fs to the federal government and gives states only slightly better grades.

The annual report, released yesterday, found there is too little federal and state funding for smoking-prevention programs and some states have yet to increase their taxes on cigarettes.

Grades for such things as the Food and Drug Administration’s regulation of tobacco products, cigarette tax and cessation policies scored Ds and Fs for the second straight year.

“The federal government’s grades this year are abysmal — one D and three Fs,” said Paul Billings, vice president for national policy and advocacy for the American Lung Association. He noted that the D grade is for the government’s failure to ratify the tobacco control treaty, which was signed by the president in 2004 but has yet to be sent to the Senate for approval.

The report may be a kick-start for legislation, currently sitting in the Senate, designed to grant the FDA regulatory oversight on tobacco products and curb the marketing of cigarettes to children.

“Now is the time for leaders at the federal level to summon the political will to do what’s right and finally shut the door on this country’s tobacco epidemic,” said Bernadette Toomey, president of the American Lung Association.

That bill has the support of Big Tobacco. However, Phillip Morris USA opposes raising tobacco taxes.

“We believe funding programs with a declining revenue source — cigarette sales have been declining for many years — we don’t think that raising taxes makes sense, and we oppose large increases in excise taxes,” said Bill Phelps, a spokesman for Phillip Morris.

Meanwhile, 21 states, the District and Puerto Rico received passing grades for their cigarette laws that protect workers from exposure to secondhand smoke. But 18 states received an F in this category.

Despite repeated studies that show that state tobacco prevention and cessation programs work, only six states fund these programs at or above the levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While many states have failed to make meaningful progress at protecting their most vulnerable citizens, the tobacco companies are spending billions of dollars annually marketing their deadly products.

The public health community faces substantial opposition from the tobacco companies. A report issued by Common Cause and the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund found that the tobacco industry made almost $3 million in Political Action Committee contributions to federal candidates during the 20052006 election cycle, including more than $1.7 million in contributions directly to federal candidates.

The Institute on Money in State Politics also found that tobacco companies and retailers gave over $96 million to state-level candidates, committees and ballot-measure campaigns during the 2005 and 2006 election cycles.

The American Medical Association, the nation’s top doctor’s lobby, reacted quickly to the report’s findings.

“The AMA is concerned that the federal government received failing grades for its tobacco control legislation and policies. It”s a cruel irony that tobacco, the No. 1 cause of preventable death, is one of the least regulated products,” said Ronald Davis, president of the AMA. “This report serves as a reminder that we need meaningful legislative reforms to give the FDA strong regulatory authority over tobacco products.”

Health Care runs on Fridays

Contact Gregory Lopes at 202/636-4892 or

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