COLUMBUS — The efforts of Ohio, Michigan, and most other cash-strapped states to combat smoking largely languished last year as money collected from tobacco taxes and litigation went to other purposes, a report to be issued today states.
“Ohio was a national leader for a number of years,” said Erika Sward, assistant vice president of national advocacy for the American Lung Association. “It made very strong efforts to reduce tobacco use among adults and kids. Unfortunately, then we saw the struggle for funding for the [anti-tobacco] foundation. Ohio has now spun down into a situation where it’s one of four states who spend nothing.”
In the midst of the recession, Ohio confiscated its anti-smoking foundation's funds from the national tobacco settlement with cigarette makers and shut it down along with its anti-smoking campaign targeting youths.
Today, the state's anti-smoking effort is largely its Quit Line toll-free number program to provide smokers with moral support and, potentially, nicotine replacement help with federal Centers for Disease Control grants. But fewer people qualify for that help.
“The tobacco industry has upped its game in the last few years with new products aimed at addicting kids and keeping them addicted,” said Ms. Sward. “It’s time for Michigan and Ohio to up their game in response.”
The State of Tobacco Control study found 2012 to be a period of relative inactivity nationally and at the state level.
North Dakota, thanks to a ballot initiative, became the only new member of the smoke-free state club of which Ohio and Michigan were already members. That means 28 states now have indoor smoke-free laws of varying degrees in place.
Both Ohio and Michigan scored well in the report for their indoor smoke-free laws. Ohio, whose Smoke-Free Workplace Act is among the strictest in the nation, earned an “A.”
Michigan earned a “B” because its law exempts casinos and cigar bars and because state law prevents local communities from enacting their own stricter anti-smoking ordinances on bars and restaurants.
The report blasts states nationally for collecting a total of $25.7 billion a year from the tobacco industry via taxes and the national tobacco settlement even as their investment in anti-smoking prevention and cessation programs dwindles.
Both Ohio and Michigan earned an “F” for failing to invest enough in such programs.
According to the report, Ohio invested none of its own money in such programs while using $3.3 million in federal funds.
Michigan, however, added $1.8 million of its own funds to $3.3 million in federal funds for anti-smoking programs.
In terms of taxation, Michigan earned a “C,” despite having the highest cigarette tax in the region. Michigan’s tax is $2 per pack compared to Ohio’s $1.25, which earned the Buckeye State a “D” grade. The national average is $1.49.
Ohio’s Quit Line, 1-800-QUIT-NOW or 1-800-784-8669, currently serves only uninsured Ohioans, pregnant women, some Medicaid recipients, and workers covered under a consortium of insurers and employers who voluntarily pay the state to make that service available at reduced cost.
Whatever is left of Ohio’s national settlement with tobacco companies is now earmarked for enforcement of the state’s Smoke-Free Workplace Act.
While Ohio received an “F” when it came to funding, Tessie Pollock, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Health, noted that the report gave higher grades to states that spend more but still have smoking rates higher than Ohio’s.
She also pointed to the state’s efforts through the Ohio Board of Regents to convince public college and university dormitories to go smoke-free.