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Wisconsin Tobacco Report Card: an A, a B, and two F’s

GRAPHIC: There's progress, and some pitfalls, noted in the new State of Tobacco Control report, released today by the American Lung Association of Wisconsin. Image courtesy ALA-WI.
GRAPHIC: There's progress, and some pitfalls, noted in the new State of Tobacco Control report, released today by the American Lung Association of Wisconsin. Image courtesy ALA-WI.
January 22, 2014

BROOKFIELD, Wis. - On a new "report card," Wisconsin gets an A for the state's strong smoke-free air laws and a B for its relatively high cigarette tax, which experts say deters young people from buying cigarettes.

However, Dona Wininsky, director of public policy and communications for the American Lung Association in Wisconsin, said there are two failing grades - because of inadequate funding for prevention and control programs, and for not providing sufficient resources to help people quit smoking.

"Where we fall a little bit short, though, is that in the past five years, the tobacco industry has created a whole new line of other tobacco products - non-cigarettes," she said. "Many of them are flavored - candy and fruit flavors - and our tax on those products isn't nearly as high."

The American Lung Association's 12th annual State of Tobacco Control report was released today, pointing out deadly statistics about tobacco use. It says lung cancer kills more than 158,000 Americans every year, including about 2,200 Wisconsinites. Wininsky said there's a huge economic toll as well.

"More than $3.5 billion every year, both in direct health-care costs but also in lost worker productivity," she said. "People who smoke take more sick days, and so they miss more work. They take more smoking breaks, obviously - so, that all has a financial impact."

The Tobacco Control Report Card said Wisconsin spends about $1.15 per smoker on the state quitline. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends spending more than 10 times that amount.

Last week, the Surgeon General issued a new report about smoking to mark the 50th anniversary of the original 1964 report. Wininsky said this led to three goals to end what she calls the "tobacco epidemic."

"We're looking to continue to reduce smoking rates," she said. "Right now they're at about 18 percent, and within the next 10 years we want them to get down to 10 percent. We certainly want everybody in the country to have a strong, smoke-free air law the way Wisconsin has. The ultimate goal of course, as always, is just to eliminate the death and disease caused by tobacco use."

The report is online at lung.org/wisconsin.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI