Thursday, January 11, 2007

American Lung Association Issues 2006 "State Of Tobacco Control" Report Card - Mixed Results For Alaska

The American Lung Association has just issued its annual "State Of Tobacco Control" Report Card, which grades the smoking cessation efforts of all states, as well as the Federal government, for the year 2006. Read the full story HERE.

In their report, the American Lung Association (ALA) lauded the dramatic growth in the number of states with smokefree workplace laws and the increases in cigarette taxes as signs that some progress was made in 2006 to protect the public from the dangers of smoking. However, the annual report also notes that the majority of states are failing to adequately fund programs to prevent tobacco use, which they consider to be a critical component in keeping kids from starting to smoke.

The American Lung Association State of Tobacco Control 2006 report did not issue overall letter grades, but instead categorically graded the 50 states, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico in four separate areas: Smokefree Air, Cigarette Taxes, Tobacco Prevention & Control Funding, and Youth Access. For the second year in a row, Maine was the only state to earn “A” grade in all four categories. And Maine is not resting on its laurels; on January 8th, the Bangor City Council passed a primary ordinance banning smoking in cars when children are present.

Our report sets a high standard. Only the strongest tobacco control laws will protect people from a product responsible for more than 438,000 deaths each year. The tragedy of tobacco use will be resolved only when comprehensive, strong policies are adopted to curb smoking,” said John L. Kirkwood, president and CEO of the American Lung Association.

The report gave a record 26 states and the District of Columbia passing grades (“C” or better) for having laws that make workplaces free of tobacco smoke. Unfortunately, another 23 states received “F” grades in that category. Cigarette taxes rose in eight states in 2006. New Jersey now has the highest state tax at $2.575 per pack and the national average cigarette tax has risen to $1.00 per pack.

While overall funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs increased in 2006, 34 states received “F” grades for the amount they spend to help people avoid smoking or quit. Only nine states received “A” grades for spending a significant amount on smoking prevention and cessation, up from six states in 2005.

Kirkwood noted that the growth in the number of strong smokefree workplace laws is a positive response to the American Lung Association’s Smokefree Air 2010 Challenge, a campaign launched in 2006 to make all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, 100 percent smokefree no later than 2010. Sixteen states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are now considered to be smokefree, up from just two states in 2002 and nearly double the nine states that were smokefree in 2005 – a nine-fold increase in just four years.

Especially encouraging to the ALA are developments in several traditional tobacco-producing states. Tennessee prohibited smoking in all state government buildings and North Carolina prohibited smoking in all buildings occupied by the General Assembly. In Virginia, home to tobacco giant Philip Morris, the state Senate approved a strong smokefree air bill that was ultimately defeated in a House subcommittee. “The fact that lawmakers in Virginia are even having this discussion is promising,” said Kirkwood. “Clearly, the social dynamics of smoking are changing. Smokefree workplaces are becoming the norm.” On the order hand, a Southern state, South Carolina, has the lowest cigarette tax in the nation, only 7 cents.

The year featured some ballot box victories for anti-smoking forces. In November, seven states voted on ballot initiatives to prohibit smoking in most public places and workplaces, increase cigarette taxes, or increase funding for tobacco programs. “Despite spending millions to defeat good tobacco initiatives – or to support bad ones – Big Tobacco was sent packing when people went to the polls. Voters approved pro-health initiatives in five of seven cases – in Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Ohio and South Dakota. Importantly, voters rejected the bad, pro-industry proposals in Ohio, Arizona and Nevada,” said Kirkwood. But the report conveniently fails to disclose that proposed anti-smoking ordinances were rejected by voters in four cities in Illinois, one city in Indiana, and one county in South Carolina in November alone.

However, the ALA panned the Federal government's efforts. “Unfortunately, in 2006 neither Congress nor the Administration took any meaningful steps to curb tobacco use. That lack of action earned the federal government an ‘F’ for the year,” said Kirkwood. Legislation to give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate tobacco products was again introduced in Congress, but was not passed. The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the world’s first tobacco control treaty, continued to languish on the president’s desk as it became international law, approved by 140 nations – not including the United States.

The Alaska Chapter of the American Lung Association is closed until January 16th, so there's been no reaction from them.

The Alaska State Summary is provided below. To find the summary for YOUR state, Click HERE, then click on the state of interest on the map.

Alaska State Summary: To determine the methodology and criteria for each category, click on the Category Heading.

Smokefree Air: Letter Grade F

-Government Workplaces: Restricts
-Private Workplaces: Restricts
-Schools: Bans
-Childcare Facilities: Bans
-Restaurants: Restricts
-Retail Stores: Restricts
-Recreational/Cultural Facilities: Restricts
-Penalties: Yes
-Preemption: No (local ordinances not preempted by weaker statewide ordinance)
-Enforcement: Yes
-Bars: No provision

Citation: AK STAT. §§ 18.35.300 et seq.

Remarks: The Smokefree Air grade only examines state tobacco control law and does not reflect local smokefree ordinances. Alaska has made great strides in protecting people from secondhand smoke by passing strong local smokefree ordinances. [Ed. Note: The failure to reflect local ordinances in the grade provides a misleading and disingenuous picture of Alaska's efforts. It makes us look worse than we actually are. The worse the situation appears, the more funding the ALA can expect. Do they have a vested financial interest in overstating the problem?]

Youth Access: Letter Grade B

-Minimum Age Requirement: Yes*
-Packaging: Prohibits all cigarette sales other than in a sealed package conforming to federal labeling requirements: Yes
-Clerk intervention: Prohibits access to/purchase of tobacco products without sales clerk intervention: Yes
-Photographic identification: Requires merchants to request photographic identification for customers who appear to be under 21 years of age: No provision. [Ed. Note: Walmart routinely asks all tobacco purchaser to show I.D. regardless of how old they appear. No I.D., no cigs. Carr's asks for I.D. if one looks "youthful", otherwise merely asks for date of birth]
-Vending Machines: Restricts
-Free Distribution: Restricts (Minors only)**
-Graduated penalties or fines on retailers: Yes
-Establishes random unannounced inspections: Yes
-Establishes statewide enforcement agency: Yes
-Preemption: No (this is considered "positive" by the ALA, because it means a weaker state law was not passed to supersede stronger local ordinances)

Citation: AK STAT. § 11.76.100 et seq. & 43.70.075

1). The minimum age to buy tobacco products in Alaska is 19.
2). Alaska prohibits the distribution of free samples of tobacco products to minors only, and under the report's methodology earns no points for this.

Tobacco Prevention & Control Spending: Letter Grade A

* FY 2007 Tobacco Prevention and Control Appropriations: $7,491,158
CDC Best Practices Range: $8,088,000 - $16,512,000

* Includes FY2006 funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cigarette Tax: Letter Grade B

Tax rate per pack of 20: $1.80
* On July 1, 2006, the cigarette tax increased from $1.60 to $1.80 per pack.

Analysis: As I continue to explore this issue, I am beginning to understand why there is so much cast-iron fanaticism from the anti-smoking forces. The Surgeon General issued a report claiming that there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke. Because our society has substituted the worship of intellect and status for the worship of God, the Surgeon General's remarks are treated as infallible. Disagreement with the Surgeon General is considered heretical by these people, just as disagreement with the official account of the Jewish Holocaust is considered equally heretical by the elite, particularly the Jewish elite.

The Surgeon General is right. There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke. There is also presumably no safe level of exposure to countless other substances, some known to be hazardous, others whose hazards have yet to be discovered. Yet there is no ongoing campaign to invade people's homes, businesses, and cars to forcibly stop exposure to any other substance. Smokers have clearly been singled out for persecution, not only because the tobacco companies are unpopular, but also because they are predominantly a middle-class/working-class constituency. This constituency has also been the primary victims of globalization and mass immigration.

But it isn't just about smoking; it's about the sanctity of private property. Will you be allowed to engage in lawful activities on your own property, or will self-appointed nannies be allowed to control your legal actions? During the campaign which led to Anchorage's current anti-smoking ordinance, it was revealed that 200 social establishments were already non-smoking, and only 90 permitted smoking. Logically, if your favorite watering-hole permitted smoking, and you wanted a non-smoking environment, you could easily select and choose a non-smoking venue. However, this was not good enough for the fanatics. The fanatics wanted to ban smoking even in social establishments which they didn't patronize. This is the height of selfishness, no different in concept than invading Iraq because it posed a threat to Israel.

In April, we in Anchorage have a chance to take back private property rights. When you see the initiative on the ballot to repeal the current anti-smoking ordinance, vote Yes to repeal. Anchorage will still remain mostly smoke-free, but it will be because private property owners want it that way on their premises, not because some self-righteous nanny forces them to be that way. Vist the Stomp The Ban website for more information.

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