NC Grade on Tobacco Use: Fail

Looks like we’re in detention.

The American Lung Association has given North Carolina straight F’s in all five categories in the annual American Lung Association "State of Tobacco Control" report. The 16th annual report evaluates states and the federal government on the proven-effective tobacco control laws and policies necessary to save lives. NC was one of five states to fail. Kentucky, Mississippi, Texas and Virginia also did not meet prevention standards.

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North Carolina has a history with tobacco products. The US Department of Agriculture ranks North Carolina as the top state for national tobacco production, and NC has reduced funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs. The state’s history of tobacco and current growth of the plant in NC was not addressed in the study, nor was there any correlation mentioned.

The ALA notes that tobacco use is a serious addiction and remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in America, killing more than 480,000 Americans each year. The report grades all states in five categories: Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Funding, Smokefree Air, Tobacco Taxes, Access to Cessation Services, and Tobacco 21, the push to raise the age of smoking from 18 to 21 years of age.

The study offered three solutions to improve our grades:

  1. Restore funding for tobacco use prevention and cessation programs, including QuitlineNC
  2. Increase the state cigarette tax by at least $1.00 per pack; and
  3. Resist attempts to weaken the smoke-free restaurants and bars law and expand the law to include all public places and private worksites.

WNCN CBS North Carolina spoke with health leaders about the findings. On Quitline NC, which provides free tobacco cessation services to any NC resident who needs help quitting, the State Health Director agreed with the study. WNCN shares:

“We do know that Quitline is underfunded,” said Dr. Elizabeth Tilson, State Health Director. “One way to really take advantage of the resource we have and expand it to its full efficacy is fully funding that QuitlineNC.”

The news report also covered the increased tax suggestion, speaking with Morgan Gramann, Executive Director, North Carolina Alliance for Health. “When you increase the cigarette tax, obviously, you make cigarettes more expensive … So, hopefully, people will choose not to buy them because they’re more expensive and they’ll choose to spend their money on healthier options,” Gramann shared.

Rep. Sarah Stevens, (R) House Speaker Pro Tem. gave the news station a statement as well, and shared that “state leaders will review the American Lung Association’s findings, including discussing how effective increasing the cigarette tax would be.”

“Anytime we get an F on some kind of national survey or study, certainly it’s something we need to look at,” said Rep. Sarah Stevens, (R) House Speaker Pro Tem.

Following the suggestions of the ALA would see a slight increase in taxes that might be used for other measures, and in theory could be used to fund cessation programs. The recommended guidelines from the ALA say that cessation programs are a key solution that should be covered in Medicaid programs as well, citing that: “It is well-established that helping smokers quit saves lives and money. Smoking is a serious addiction, and seven out of 10 smokers want to quit.”

For those looking for help, QuitlineNC is operational and offers web coaching and assistance. If you’re looking to quit, they can be reached at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

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