Lung Association report card gives Virginia ‘F’ for tobacco control

Published 10:26 pm Saturday, January 21, 2012

As far as tobacco-control in 2011 goes, Virginia has failed to protect its citizens from the dangers of the product, according to a report by American Lung Association.

In its State of Tobacco Control 2012 report, the ALA found Virginia isn’t doing its part to limit tobacco-related diseases in the state.

The report serves as an annual report card on tobacco control and monitors progress on key polices at both the federal and state levels.

In its 10th annual State of Tobacco Control report, the Lung Association graded all 50 states and the District of Columbia on four categories — tobacco prevention and control program funding, smoke-free air laws, cigarette tax rates and coverage of cessation treatments and services to help smokers quit.

Virginia, along with Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina and West Virginia, all received all F’s on the report cards.

“Virginia collects more than $299 million in tobacco revenues, and tough financial times don’t justify a retreat in efforts to fight the leading cause of preventable death,” said Dennis Alexander, regional executive director of the American Lung Association in Virginia. “The American Lung Association and key tobacco control advocates labored in 2011 to increase the cigarette tax and funding to the local tobacco control program, but fell short because of lack of sufficient support from members of the General Assembly.”

The ALA said Virginia is one of many states that failed in its duty during 2011 by not enacting laws and policies to reduce the diseases.

According to the group, the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth, a statewide program to reduce and prevent tobacco use among youth, saw a 25-percent cut in funding in 2011.

The Lung Association also said this funding cut translates to 200,000 fewer young people being reached through the media, 38 fewer grants being offered by the group to communities and 44 jobs that were eliminated.

The ALA in Virginia and the Tobacco-Free Alliance of Virginia would like to see this funding restored during the 2012 legislative season.

In the State of Tobacco Control report, only Delaware, Hawaii, Maine and Oklahoma received passing grades in all four categories; however, no state got straight A’s.

“The enormity of the challenge facing us requires combined resources at both the state and federal levels,” Alexander said. “Further 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.”

To view all of the scores, visit www.stateoftobaccocontrol.org.