Smoking programs not keeping pace

 Most states, including Maryland, are not doing enough to protect the public from tobacco or prevent related disease, according to the latest assessment from the American Lung Associationdue out today.

In its 10th annual State of Tobacco Control Report Card, the group gave praise to the Obama administration for offering treatments to federal employees, putting graphic pictures on cigarettes packs and advertising its 1-800-QUIT-NOW line. But the group said the tobacco companies are taking advantage of the states’ lax policies by spending billions to market cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products.

Charles D. Connor, association president and CEO, said youth and adult smoking rates have declined only slowly over the past decade, sometimes stalling completely. That means tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death -- 443,000 die from tobacco-related disease and second-hand smoke a year, the group says. It also costs $193 billion in healthcare costs and lost productivity.

Many states, however, cut funding for tobacco cessation programs and none added smoke-free air laws or raised its tobacco tax (Maryland’s governor proposed raising the cigar and smokeless tobacco tax on Wednesday.) Forty-three states got an F for under-funding tobacco control programs and 32 got one for not offering treatments to Medicaid recipients and state employees or for a lack of funding for quit lines.

The state of Maryland earned:

+An F for tobacco prevention and control spending. It spent about $6 million in fiscal 2012 and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended it spend $63 million.

+An A for smoke-free air. It prohibits smoking in government and private work sites, schools, child care facilities, restaurants, casinos, bars, retail stores and recreational facilities. There are penalties and enforcement.

+A C for cigarette tax of $2 per pack.

+An F for cessation coverage. Medicaid medication and counseling coverage varies by health plan and enrollee but has some limits. State employees have some coverage for medications and counseling. The state quit line is funded at $1.20 a smoker though the CDC recommends $10.53 a smoker. Private insurance is mandated to provide treatment.

Smoking rates in Maryland among adults, according to the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, dropped from 20.5 percent in 2000 to 15.2 percent in 2010. Among high schoolers, they dropped from 23 percent in 2000 to 14.1 percent in 2010.

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