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Report Suggests Ohio Needs to Step Up Anti-Tobacco Game

The American Cancer Society says Ohio's last cigarette tax increase in 2015 has not large enough to improve public health. (Pixabay)
The American Cancer Society says Ohio's last cigarette tax increase in 2015 has not large enough to improve public health. (Pixabay)
August 4, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio – New research suggests Ohio needs to step up its anti-tobacco game. An annual report from the American Cancer Society, which grades states on cancer-fighting policies, shows that 30 percent of cancer deaths in Ohio are attributed to tobacco.

And while the state scores well for having one of the best smoke-free laws in the country, Jeff Stephens, the government relations director of the American Cancer Society in Ohio, explains that other policy areas need attention. For example, he says Ohio's cigarette tax is below the national average.

"While there was a slight increase in the cigarette tax two years ago, it wasn't big enough to have a health impact and the tobacco industry is able to mitigate these small increases with couponing and discounting so the consumer doesn't feel it," he explains.

The 2015 budget included a 35-cent per-pack increase in the cigarette tax, but legislators did not include Gov. John Kasich's proposed 65-cent-per-pack cigarette tax increase for this year's budget.

According to the report, tobacco products cost Ohio more than five and a half billion in health-care dollars every year.

Stephens says advocates also are working to bring equalization to taxes on other tobacco products, such as chew, snuff and little cigars. He explains those are items that kids tend to experiment with before cigarettes.

"We're one of only two states in the country that have not touched that tax in 25 years," he says. "So we need to bring that up to a level equal to cigarettes to deter more youth from easy access to initiating tobacco use."

Meanwhile, Ohio received a positive grade in the report for Medicaid coverage of tobacco-cessation services, but scored low in overall funding for these programs.

Stephens says tobacco prevention and cessation programs were severely cut in 2008, and the state has slowly been increasing funding since then.

This collaboration is produced in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded by the George Gund Foundation.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH