The new report card from the American Lung Association regarding the state of tobacco control in Wisconsin has been released. It gives the state a failing grade in three areas: funding for tobacco control and prevention, access to cessation services, and for not raising the minimum age for sale of tobacco products from 18 to 21.
While acknowledging improvements in tobacco control over the long run, Dona Wininsky, the director of tobacco control and public policy of the American Lung Association in Wisconsin, says we're in a rut, and we need to do more...
"Wisconsin has a comprehensive tobacco control and prevention program," she said. "It's probably the best tool at our disposal. But funding has been cut repeatedly over the years and we're just not able to provide all parts of the state with the programs and services that we know work."
The state gets an A for policies that enhance smoke-free air, and a B for the level of tobacco taxation in Wisconsin. According to the American Lung Association, 18 percent of Wisconsin residents still smoke.
While that figure is indicative of progress that's been made over the years, Wininsky says the state's grades have not changed since the implementation of the state's Smoke-Free Air Law in 2010. "Tobacco is still the number one preventable cause of death," she added. "We've made a lot of strides but there's still too many people using tobacco and too many people getting sick and dying from using tobacco."
Close to 95 percent of adult smokers try their first cigarette before the age of 21, so Wininsky says discouraging young people from using tobacco products is a key. The state's cigarette tax is two dollars and 52 cents a pack, which is a deterrent. "But unfortunately a lot of these kids are turning away from cigarettes, turning to products such as little cigars and e-cigarettes that are both flavored, but also have a huge price advantage because they're taxed at a much lower rate," explained Wininsky. "Increasing that price on those products is one big step that we need to be taking."
Wisconsin News Connection is here.