Well, the report cards are in. In the U.S., most states failed miserably in the implementation of anti-smoking programs, but caring for those persons stricken with tobacco related ailments improved, but a classic case of a bit too little, too late. Each year in the United States, 443,000 people die from illnesses directly related to tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. This makes tobacco the number one cause of preventable deaths. Tobacco-related illness saps the country of more than $193 billion in health-care costs and lost productivity.

Most states, 40 in fact, were found to be sorely lacking in efforts to get people to stop smoking or help them quit and received a mark of ‘F.’

The American Lung Association report card gave the FDA a ‘B’ for its anti-smoking efforts since its oversight of tobacco products in 2009. Key initiatives by the FDA included attempts to ban the sale of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to minors, to ban candy and fruit-flavored cigarettes, to prohibit tobacco industry sponsorship of sports and entertainment events, to take enforcement action against electronic cigarette markers, and to require larger health warnings on cigarettes and smokeless tobacco labels.

Charles D. Connor, president of the Association stated on Wednesday, January 20, 2011:

“We all can see that public sentiment is turning against smoking, however it’s a grave mistake to assume that the shift in public thinking about tobacco means that the public health crisis has ended. It hasn’t. Most of our states are failing miserably when it comes to combating tobacco-caused disease. Despite collecting millions of dollars, and in some cases billions, in tobacco settlement dollars and excise taxes, most states are investing only pennies of those dollars to help smokers quit and keep kids from starting.”

Kansas was the only state that joined the American Lung Association’s Smokefree Air Challenge in 2010 passing a comprehensive law making public places and workplaces, including restaurants and bars, smokefree.

Alaska and North Dakota got an ‘A’ for funding tobacco prevention and control programs at CDC-recommended levels.

For the first time in California, the American Lung Association in California graded all 480 incorporated cities and towns, and all 58 counties in the state. While California earned an ‘A’ for smokefree air policies, the state receives an ‘F’ for failing to adequately fund tobacco prevention and control programs, another ‘F’ for poor coverage of smoking cessation treatments and services, and a ‘D’ for its low cigarette tax.

In California, tobacco use continues to take a significant toll on public health and taxpayer dollars. Nearly four million people in California smoke, and tobacco-related illness remains the number one preventable cause of death in the state, responsible for more than 36,000 deaths each year, more people lost to tobacco than alcohol, HIV/AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined.

Connor continued:

“The tobacco companies, meanwhile, aren’t relenting in their campaigns of deception. The industry found new ways in 2010 to market its products and target kids.”

On a positive note President Obama’s new health care reform law expands programs to help people quit smoking. Most private health insurers will also have to offer treatments to help people quit, and under the Medicaid program, pregnant women will be able to get access to smoking cessation programs, according to the report.

Even so, the feds received a ‘C’ for failing to cover smoking cessation programs in all federal health care programs and a ‘D’ for not raising the federal tax on cigarettes. Only six individual states raised tobacco taxes last year.

Danny McGoldrick, vice president for research at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids concluded:

“While it demonstrates that while we have made great progress addressing tobacco use, we still have a long way to go. Where the states have really failed is in using their settlement dollars or their tax dollars to fund tobacco prevention programs. In fact, they have been cutting those programs dramatically. We know what happens when you do that: You get more kids smoking, fewer adults trying to quit and smoking rates go up.”

Full Report: American Lung Association

Written By Sy Kraft, B.A.