American Lung Association evaluates tobacco programs

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 626 views 

Photo credit: Irina Iriser

Nonprofit American Lung Association recently released its annual “State of Tobacco Control” report that shows Arkansas with three failing grades.

The 2023 report evaluates state and federal actions to eliminate tobacco use, which is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. The nonprofit assigns letter grades, A through F, to the policies best proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use.

According to the report, Arkansas received F grades for tobacco prevention and control program funding, tobacco taxes and flavored tobacco products. It earned a D in access to cessation services and a C in smoke-free air.

Laura Turner, senior manager of advocacy for Arkansas for the American Lung Association, said she wasn’t surprised by the state’s grades, and they show the areas needing work. Focus areas include ensuring funding is available for counseling and medications to stop tobacco use. Another is to ensure the $14.69 million that Arkansas legislators approved for the Arkansas Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program is maintained and allocated.

“Of course, we’d always like to see that raised,” Turner said. “But at the very least we want to make sure we’re maintaining that.”

Also, the nonprofit wants to see cities gain control of tobacco sales and flavors. State law currently prohibits this.

She highlighted the state’s tobacco prevention and cessation program is doing great work, but the money allocated to it is small compared to the tobacco-related revenue the state receives annually.

Arkansas received $281.3 million in tobacco-related revenue but applied $10.52 million to tobacco control programs for fiscal 2023. This funding level is 28.7% of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends, which would be $36.7 million for Arkansas.

Turner noted that no state received all A grades, and everyone has an opportunity to improve in their tobacco prevention efforts. Nationwide, the nonprofit is urging the federal government to end the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars in the United States.