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Report calls on Tennessee to renew commitment to stop tobacco use

Staff Reports • Dec 15, 2015 at 2:16 PM

NASHVILLE – Tennessee made no progress in 2013 to reduce tobacco-caused death and disease, according to the American Lung Association's "State of Tobacco Control 2014" report released Wednesday.

Fifty years since the first Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health was issued Jan. 11, 1964, the report found Tennessee and the U.S. must renew their commitment to eliminate tobacco-caused death and disease.

"Despite great strides in reducing smoking rates in America, tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and illness in the U.S.," said Ellen Kershaw, director of advocacy with the American Lung Association in Tennessee. "We must renew our commitment to stopping tobacco from robbing another generation of Americans of their health and future. We cannot afford another 50 years of tobacco use.”

The Lung Association's "State of Tobacco Control 2014," its 12th annual report, tracks yearly progress on key tobacco control policies at the federal and state level, assigning grades based on whether laws are adequately protecting citizens from the enormous toll tobacco use takes on lives and the economy.

Tennessee received failing grades in tobacco prevention and control program funding, cigarette tax and cessation coverage and a “C” in smoke-free air.

"Tennessee has the unfortunate distinction of failing to make progress in the fight against tobacco use in 2013, and protect its citizens from tobacco-caused diseases like lung cancer, the leading cancer killer of both men and women in Tennessee. Meanwhile Big Tobacco continued to rob our health and wealth with clever new tactics to lure new youth smokers," said Kershaw.

Tobacco causes an estimated 9,709 deaths in Tennessee annually and costs the state's economy $5.1 billion in health care costs and lost productivity.

For Tennessee, 2013 was another missed opportunity to put in place proven policies to reduce tobacco use and save lives, including strong smoke-free workplace laws, higher tobacco taxes and effective tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs, the report said. Although Tennessee added $5 million for tobacco prevention and cessation programs in its current budget, its total funding level is only 9.9 percent of the amount recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control for this purpose.

Priorities that must be addressed to improve Tennessee's "State of Tobacco Control" grades for 2014 include:

• improving smoking prevention and cessation efforts by providing adequate resources to more effectively prevent kids from starting to use tobacco and help current tobacco users quit.

• strengthening Tennessee's smoke-free law to protect employees and customers in all workplaces.

"Comprehensive smoke-free workplace laws, high tobacco taxes, funding tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs at recommended levels and providing insurance coverage for quit smoking treatments have been proven to reduce tobacco use. All that is missing in Tennessee is the political will and leadership from our elected officials," said Kershaw. "Leaders in Nashville must step up to provide smokers with the support they need to quit and adequately fund programs that help keep our kids off tobacco.”

Meanwhile, the tobacco industry continued its pursuit of addicting new users and keeping current users from quitting in 2013. This included efforts at the federal and state levels to exempt their products from meaningful public health protections.

The three largest cigarette manufacturers – Altria, Reynolds, American and Lorillard – continued expansion into tobacco products other than cigarettes in 2013. As cigarette use continues to gradually decline, these companies continue to maintain their stranglehold on America's youth and reap profits from smokeless tobacco, cigars and now e-cigarettes, according to the report.

"I urge everyone in the Volunteer State to join the American Lung Association in Tennessee and renew their commitment to preventing another 50 years of tobacco-caused death and disease," said Kershaw.

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