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Ohio gets 'F' rating for smoking prevention

The American Lung Association on Wednesday once again hammered Ohio for failing to spend any state funds on anti-smoking programs, giving the state failing grades for smoking prevention efforts and insurance coverage of cessation programs.

In its annual State of Tobacco Control report, the association gave Ohio a grade of “F” for relying solely on federal money for its $3.3 million annual anti-tobacco program. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Ohio should be spending $145 million to implement best practices. Ohio also got an “F” for its insurance coverage of smoking cessation programs, and a “D” for its relatively low cigarette tax of $1.25 per pack, the 28th highest tax rate among the states and the District of Columbia. The tax hasn’t been raised since it went up 70 cents in 2005. Experts say higher taxes help smokers to quit and discourage youths from picking up the habit.

“Thumbs down on Ohio for spending no state money on tobacco prevention and cessation programs despite smoking costing the state close to $9.2 billion in economic costs each year” and 18,590 deaths, the report said.

Ohio got one good grade: an “A” for its workplace smoking ban, passed by voters in November 2006 despite heavy campaign spending by opponents.

The ALA said, “The tobacco industry continues to spend billions to keep people addicted to its deadly products, while public health is shortchanged. “(F)ederal and state governments are largely failing to combat tobacco industry tactics, while diverting or misusing life-saving tobacco control funds.”

Data show that the percentage of Ohioans who smoke has increased since 2009, when then-Gov. Ted Strickland and state lawmakers drastically cut anti-smoking spending and shifted money from the tobacco settlement and tobacco tax revenues to other budget priorities. The smoking rate increased to 25.2 percent as of 2011, from 20.2 percent in 2008.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids last month ranked Ohio 50th among the states in the funding of tobacco prevention programs, with an estimated $1.1 billion in tobacco-related revenue and expenditures of zero.

“The state continues to make money on the cigarette tax and does absolutely nothing to help people stop,” said Bruce Barcelo, who heads tobacco prevention and cessation efforts for Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County.

Tessie Pollock, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Health, said state officials plan to push “evidence-based programs” like the state’s Tobacco Quit Line (1-800-QUITNOW), and efforts like encouraging smoke-free college campuses and apartment complexes.

“There’s not always a strong correlation between spending and the smoking rate,” she said. “It’s what you do with the money (you have).”

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