Tobacco survey shows work to do

Published 6:00 am Friday, February 11, 2005

Dear Editor,

The third annual national American Lung Association State ofTobacco Control 2004 report has been released. This national reportcard analyzes and reports state tobacco control laws in four keyareas: smoke-free air, tobacco program funding, cigarette excisetaxes and youth access to tobacco.

According to the report, the combined efforts of several healthand community organizations across the state have resulted in a 28percent reduction in cigarette use by high school students and a 52percent reduction in cigarette use by middle school students since1999. The result is a scored grade of “A” in tobacco prevention andcontrol spending. Only two A’s were given in the country.

What is the next step? Mississippi’s tobacco excise tax of $0.18per pack of cigarettes scores a grade of “F”. Mississippi has oneof the lowest excise tax rates in the nation, and has not increasedits tobacco excise since 1985. The Communities for a Clean Bill ofHealth (led by American Lung Association of Mississippi, AmericanCancer Society, American Heart Association, Mississippi HealthAdvocacy Program, The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi, I.Q.H.and other organizations) are leading a statewide campaign to bringabout a $1 per pack increase in the cigarette excise tax (Buck theSystem).

The increase will generate approximately $184 million in newrevenue, and will help prevent 36,000 children from ever startingto smoke. This action alone will help provide our children with ahealthier, longer life. And, in future generations, reverse thecycle of lung diseases, early death, and tobacco dependence. Lungdisease is predicted to surpass all other chronic diseases (cancer,heart disease, even HIV) in the next 20 years as the number onecause of death).

The American Lung Association of Mississippi has, through itsinvolvement with local and statewide tobacco coalitions, helpedmake inroads in tobacco control for the state of Mississippi.Larger organizations working with grassroots organizationsstrengthen Mississippi’s tobacco education, prevention, cessationand advocacy efforts and make an impact on every community. ThePartnership for a Healthy Mississippi acts as a financial resourceand it creates an environment for all organizations to worktogether for the greater good of citizens of our fine state. Thisallows us to be more effective in our missions and direct ourresources to our individual missions.

Currently, $20 million from the state’s tobacco settlementprovides funding for a tobacco control program, which isadministered by The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi. In itscomprehensive approach to youth tobacco education, the Partnershipcombines community and faith-based efforts with school programs, aschool nurse program, cessation support, media and the enforcementof laws that prohibit the sale of tobacco to youth. The Partnershipworks with statewide organizations including the American LungAssociation of Mississippi, American Cancer Society, American HeartAssociation and more than 30 local community partners. Its strengthis in its grassroots organization and its active youthinvolvement.

Kay Hullings, executive director

American Lung Association of Mississippi