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More tobacco control efforts recommended at state, local level

The CDC is pushing states to raise cigarette taxes and spend more on anti-tobacco marketing and Medicaid smoking cessation services.

By Kevin B. O’Reilly — Posted May 14, 2010

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States should do more to drive down smoking rates, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that ranked state smoking policies to promote harsher anti-tobacco actions.

"This is our first-ever report on state-specific tobacco-control measures," said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH. "It is supporting state and local public health efforts, recognizing the good, shedding light on the bad and lauding improvements."

Adult smoking rates have dropped by half since 1965, but about 20% of U.S. adults still smoke.

"The decline in smoking rates has stalled," Dr. Frieden said during an April news briefing at the Assn. of Health Care Journalists' annual meeting in Chicago. "It was dropping steadily until five or six years ago. We need to resume that decline."

States and local health agencies can help reduce smoking rates, Dr. Frieden said. During his tenure as commissioner of the New York City Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene, the number of New Yorkers who smoked dropped by 350,000. The teen smoking rate was cut in half after enactment of a combined state and local tax rate of $4.25 a pack, the highest in the nation.

By contrast, South Carolina smokers pay the nation's lowest cigarette taxes -- seven cents a pack, according to the CDC report. Twenty-eight states lack bans on smoking in workplaces, restaurants and bars, and only seven state Medicaid plans cover all smoking-cessation medications and counseling. (See clarification)

Meanwhile, no state spends the CDC-recommended amount on anti-tobacco measures such as smoking cessation, the report said. Maine ranks first on that measure, while Tennessee ranks last.

The report also ranks states on how much they spend on anti-smoking efforts, with Utah ranking first and Texas finishing last.

West Virginia's 26.5% adult-smoking rate tops the nation, while California has the lowest smoking rate at 14%.

The "Tobacco Control State Highlights 2010" report is available online (link).

Graphics highlighting the report's state-by-state findings can be shared on any website.

"Tobacco control is within our reach," Dr. Frieden said. "Our challenge is to take the steps to reach it, not just at the federal and state level but at the local level."

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