Mo. gets failing grade for tobacco control

A new report says the state hasn’t done enough to prevent and stop tobacco use.
Tuesday, January 9, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:32 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

The American Lung Association is giving Missouri failing grades for not doing enough for tobacco control and prevention.

In a report released today, the association gave Missouri Fs in smoke-free air, tobacco taxes and spending on prevention and control of tobacco use.

The only category in which Missouri received a passing grade was youth access to tobacco products. Missouri received a B in this category because of state restrictions on the locations of vending machines and making events off-limits to those under 18 if tobacco products are distributed for free.

“Tobacco issues have not been given the importance they deserve,” said Michelle Bernth of the American Lung Association. “Policy makers in Missouri have failed to make tobacco control a public health priority.”

The report gave 26 states and the District of Columbia passing grades for having laws that make workplaces free of tobacco smoke. In addition to Missouri, 22 states received a failing grade in that category.

The association gave 34 states failing grades for the amount spent on smoking prevention and cessation. The association gave nine states an A in that category, up from six states in 2005.

The report also says the Missouri legislature has not allocated any state money for tobacco control efforts for 2007.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that states spend a minimum of $32.8 million annually on tobacco prevention and control.

Stan Cowan of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said the state agency was spending about $1 million this year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

State Auditor Claire McCaskill released a report in March about tobacco settlement spending in Missouri. She found that Missouri received $965 million in tobacco settlement payments from 2001 to 2005. During the same time period, $1.8 million was allocated for tobacco prevention programs. According to the audit report, the rest of the settlement payments funded other programs or covered budget shortcomings.

The tobacco settlement “hasn’t been spent in a responsible manner or as it was intended,” state Rep. Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, said Monday.

As part of the settlement, states are supposed to spend the money for anti-smoking campaigns.

The report notes that Missouri has the second-lowest cigarette tax in the nation at 17 cents per pack. A statewide ballot initiative to raise the tax to 97 cents per pack was defeated in the November election.

The report comes on the same day a new law takes effect in Columbia that bans indoor smoking in bars, restaurants and other public places. Other local governments in Missouri that have imposed restrictions on smoking in public places include Ballwin, Maryville, Kansas City and Arnold.

“It is true that some cities in Missouri have passed smoking ordinances, but they are in the vast minority,” Bernth said.

The association said the full report would be posted on its Web site:

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