The American Lung Association (ALA) has given Pennsylvania a failing grade on funding for tobacco prevention and control programs, and not great grades in other tobacco safety categories.
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The grades were released on Tuesday in the ALA’s "State of Tobacco 2014" report, with ratings for each state on tobacco control and prevention programs, smoke-free air, tobacco taxes and support for people quitting smoking. Pennsylvania got an F, C, C and F in those categories, respectively, but could turn things around.
“We could really benefit from an increase of prevention funding, closing those loopholes on secondhand smoke and increasing taxes on tobacco products," said Deb Brown, CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mid Atlantic. "If we did some of those, I think Pennsylvania could be a leader in tobacco prevention.
“Pennsylvania certainly could earn an A instead of a C for smoke-free air if we just remove the exemptions from the current laws,” Brown added.
For example, casinos and some bars still allow indoor smoking, which exposes employees to second-hand smoke, Brown said.
Brown also called on Pennsylvania to enact taxes for cigars, snuff, chewing tobacco and loose bags of tobacco to fund tobacco control and prevention programs.
“There’s no youth tobacco control program here in the commonwealth. Other states have large youth tobacco control movements,” Brown said.
Pennsylvania Health Department spokeswoman Aimee Tysarczyk said that while she had not seen the full report, Pennsylvania does offer programs to prevent tobacco use among young people, promote quitting among adults, eliminate exposing nonsmokers to secondhand smoke and address the health impact of tobacco.
The state Health Department also partners with the Pennsylvania Alliance to Control Tobacco and the statewide tobacco quitting hotline Quitline, which offers free telephone counseling to residents trying to give up smoking.
“While states, including Pennsylvania, have been met with funding challenges during tough economic times and most recently via the Master Settlement Agreement arbitration ruling, we have made adjustments and continue to provide comprehensive tobacco prevention and cessation programs,” Tysarczyk said.
Long said that arbitration ruling, between the state and tobacco companies, led tobacco prevention programs to drop in funding from $14 million to $7 million.
Tysarczyk also mentioned Young Lungs at Play as a promising program that helps communities create tobacco-free parks, playgrounds and recreation centers, and which they hope to expand.
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