CDC: Mississippi needs stronger anti-tobacco regulations - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

CDC: Mississippi needs stronger anti-tobacco regulations

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says comprehensive tobacco control policies are needed in Mississippi to save lives and protect children.

The CDC report, Tobacco Control State Highlights 2010, shows how states are performing on measures such as smoking rates, tobacco excise taxes, smoke-free policies and tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

"This report highlights the importance of combining comprehensive state and local smoke-free laws, higher tobacco excise taxes and fully funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs to reduce the negative toll of tobacco use on communities," said Kimberly Hughes, the American Cancer Society's government relations director for Mississippi.

"Only by tackling tobacco use through a comprehensive approach can we effectively overcome Mississippi's tobacco epidemic," Hughes added. 

The American Cancer Society in Mississippi works in partnership with state policymakers across the country to ensure that tobacco use is addressed through proven methods including;

  • raising the price of tobacco products,
  • implementing comprehensive smoke free policies 
  • fully funding and sustaining evidenced-based, statewide tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

Mississippi maintains a 68-cent per pack cigarette excise tax, ranking 37th among all states. The national average tax is $1.34 per pack.  The Mississippi Legislature last increased the tobacco tax in 2009.

Research has consistently shown that every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces youth smoking by 7 percent and overall cigarette consumption by about 4 percent. Since 2002, 46 states, the District of Columbia and several U.S. territories have raised their cigarette tax in 98 separate instances, including 14 states and the District of Columbia in 2009 alone.

Three states - New Mexico, Utah and Washington - have increased their taxes in 2010. Washington's tax increase will be signed into law tomorrow.  Once the three increases are in effect by July 1, the new average state tobacco tax will be $1.40 per pack.  Cigarette taxes currently range from a low of seven cents in South Carolina to a high of $3.46 in Rhode Island.  Mississippi does not have a statewide smoke-free workplace law.  However, local communities have the ability to pass their own laws.  Forty communities in the state have passed smoke-free ordinances, with 29 of them being comprehensive. 

Efforts are underway to strengthen the ordinance in Jackson. Secondhand smoke is a major health hazard, proven to cause lung cancer, heart disease and emphysema. With 4,000 chemicals and more than 60 carcinogens - including arsenic and polonium - secondhand smoke causes cancer, heart, and lung disease and kills more than 49,000 nonsmoking Americans each year, including 3,300 deaths from lung cancer. 

Currently 23 states have passed strong smoke-free legislation that requires 100 percent smoke-free non-hospitality workplaces, bars and restaurants.  Of those 23, Wisconsin, Michigan, South Dakota, and Kansas, are awaiting implementation. 

More than 3,100 municipalities have local laws in effect that restrict where smoking is permitted.  Earlier this year, North Carolina became the first major tobacco growing state to implement a 100 percent statewide smoke-free restaurant and bar law.  States with comprehensive tobacco control programs experience faster declines in cigarette sales, smoking prevalence, and lung cancer incidence and mortality than states that do not invest in these programs. 

Currently, inadequate funding and insufficient resources are increasingly straining such services.  The CDC recommends states spend $3.7 billion or more on tobacco control programs. Only nine states are funding at even half of the CDC's recommend spending levels and North Dakota is the only state to approve funding control programs at the CDC prevention spending target. 

Currently Mississippi funds tobacco control programs at 1.4 percent of the CDC's suggested level, ranking 50th among all states. "Despite efforts recent years to pass strong tobacco control measures in Mississippi, there is more work to be done," Hughes said. 

"This report will be an essential tool for advocates and lawmakers working to strengthen their state tobacco control policies," Hughes said.

The use of tobacco products remains the nation's number one cause of preventable death, killing more than 400,000 Americans and costing $96 billion in direct health care costs each year. 

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