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American Lung Association Gives PA Poor Grades for Tobacco Prevention

A new report released Wednesday by the American Lung Association gives Pennsylvania lackluster grades with regard to anti-smoking laws and programs.

The State of Tobacco Control 2014 report gives the Keystone state an “F” for funding of tobacco prevention and control programs, a “C” for smokefree air, a “C” for tobacco taxation, and an “F” for cessation coverage by insurance companies.

Deb Brown, Chief Executive Officer for the American Lung Association of the Mid Atlantic, said Pennsylvania’s investment in smoking prevention and cessation programs has been declining for years.

“We are pleased that there’s still $7 million going into prevention,” said Brown. “But we know from the Surgeon General’s report that was released just a few days ago, that there is a lot more funding that needs to go into prevention and cessation programs.”

Brown said Pennsylvania could improve its grade for smokefree air by disallowing smoking inside bars and casinos. There are currently bills to do just that in both the state House and Senate.

Brown also said Pennsylvania should raise taxes on cigarettes and begin taxing other tobacco products.

“We know when you increase the tobacco tax on tobacco products, young people are more likely to be price-sensitive and therefore it would decrease the number of young people utilizing those products,” said Brown.

Brown said people who do want to quit in Pennsylvania can sometimes face an uphill battle with their insurance companies.

“Often what happens is, if there is coverage, it’s very limited,” said Brown. “A person may only get one opportunity in a lifetime to try to quit smoking. We know that it takes multiple attempts to quit.”

The American Lung Association’s report suggests optimism that Pennsylvania and other states will work to combat tobacco use. It lays out “three bold goals” not just for the state, but nationwide.

“To reduce smoking rates to less than 10% within ten years; currently we’re at about 18 percent. To protect all Americans from secondhand smoke within five years, which means that we need to have comprehensive clean indoor air laws in every state,” said Brown. “And ultimately to eliminate the death and disease caused by tobacco use.”