SOURCE: American Lung Association

August 25, 2005 08:00 ET

More States Go Smokefree, Increase Cigarette Taxes as Momentum Builds for Combatting Tobacco Use

NEW YORK, NY -- (MARKET WIRE) -- August 25, 2005 -- A growing number of states are taking aggressive action to combat tobacco use, according to a new report from the American Lung Association. In its mid-year update on laws passed by states, the Lung Association reports that during the first half of 2005, several states went completely smokefree, others moved to strengthen existing restrictions on smoking in public places, and new increases in state tobacco taxes are bringing the national average to nearly $1.00 per pack.

Rhode Island and Vermont joined six other states as Smokefree States, states that prohibit smoking in most workplaces, including restaurants and bars. Georgia, Montana, and North Dakota strengthened their existing smokefree air laws.

"Smokefree air laws are public health laws because they protect workers from secondhand smoke. They resonate with the public and save lives," said John L. Kirkwood, President and CEO of the American Lung Association.

"The American Lung Association urges every state to enact strong, comprehensive laws that will protect all workers from secondhand smoke. No one should have to risk their health in order to make a living," he said.

While states are making it harder for people to smoke in public places, higher cigarette taxes are also making smoking more expensive. Since January 1, 2005, tobacco taxes have increased in 11 states, including the tobacco-growing states of North Carolina and Kentucky. As of August 15, the average state cigarette tax was $0.89 cents per pack. It will increase to $0.92 per pack when tax increases in Maine and North Carolina take effect. Texas is considering a $1.00 increase in its cigarette tax, which would push the nationwide average even higher.

"Higher cigarette taxes mean significant drops in smoking rates. Studies show that a 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces consumption by 7 percent for youth and 4 percent for adult. Raising the cigarette tax is one of the most effective ways to reduce adult smoking and stop kids from ever starting," said Kirkwood.

In the first six months since Oklahoma's historic $0.80 increase, an estimated 30,000 Oklahomans have quit smoking. Since New York City increased its cigarette tax in 2002, the city has experienced a 15 percent reduction in adult smoking. Highlights of the American Lung Association's midterm tobacco report include --

--  Preemption of smokefree air laws: Illinois became only the second
    state (after Delaware) to repeal preemption of local smokefree air
    ordinances. This action will allow any local community in Illinois to adopt
    smokefree air ordinances that are stronger than state law. Once the
    Illinois law goes into effect on January 1, 2006, 19 states still will have
    total or partial preemption. Preemption is a major priority for the tobacco
    industry and its front groups because they have less influence at the local
    level and prefer to lobby for weak statewide smokefree air laws that cannot
    be replaced by stronger local ordinances.
    
--  Tobacco prevention funding: States are failing to adequately fund
    tobacco prevention programs. Only five states -- Arkansas, Colorado,
    Delaware, Maine and Mississippi -- fund their programs at or above the
    minimum level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and
    Prevention.
    
--  Candy-flavored cigarettes: Banned from using cartoons to sell their
    products, tobacco companies have turned to marketing cigarettes with candy
    and fruit flavors. Nine states are fighting back with legislation to ban
    these products.
    
The American Lung Association report is a mid-term 2005 update of its annual State Legislated Actions on Tobacco Issues (SLATI) report and can be found at: http://slati.lungusa.org/midtermreports.asp. SLATI is available online at: http://slati.lungusa.org, and is updated on a regular basis. For more information on candy-flavored cigarettes, go to: http://slati.lungusa.org/alerts.asp.

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