By Carol McIntire
When it comes to tobacco control, the state of Ohio is not making the grade.
The American Lung Association recently issued its State of Tobacco Control report, giving Ohio failing grades (F) in both tobacco prevention and cessation program funding and for its tobacco tax structure. The state received an A for its smoke-free policies and a C for access to smoking cessation services.
The state has appropriated $14,213,188 on tobacco control programs for Fiscal Year 2016 (state and federal funding combined). The Centers for Disease Control recommends the state spend $132 million, which means the state is only spending 10.8 percent of what is recommended.
The state’s failing grade on cigarette taxes comes after Governor John Kasich proposed a $1 increase in the cigarette tax in the 2015 budget. Legislators approved a 35-cent per pack increase, bringing the total tax to $1.50.
The report noted the economic cost of smoking in Ohio is $5.6 million; 21 percent of adults, 15.1 percent of high school students and 3.7 percent of middle school students smoke; and 20,180 deaths can be attributed to smoking.
Susie Frew, health educator for the Carroll County Health Department, said the adult smoking rate, according to the County Health Rankings, is slightly over the state average at 23 percent.
When it comes to teen smoking, Frew said progress is being made, even though, she admits, the percentages are still too high.
“The Family and Children First Council (FCFC) conducts a Youth Risk Behavior Study every three years,” she said. “In 2009, 54.5 percent of high school students who responded to the survey said they had tried cigarettes. In 2012, that number increased to 58.9 percent. The most recent survey, 2015, shows that number declined to 46.3 percent.
The 2015 survey, completed by 668 high school students within Carroll County (Carrollton, Brown Local and Conotton Valley schools), showed 77.6 percent of high school students have never tried cigarettes, while 11.5 percent admitted to using cigarettes once or twice a week. Only 2.3 percent said they smoked three to five times a week and 8.6 percent said they smoke every day.
Just over 84 percent of high school students said they have never tried chewing tobacco or snuff while 6.2 percent admitted to using it once or twice a week; 1.8 percent said they use it three to five times per week; and 7.4 percent said they use it every day.
“If you do the math, it means about 50 high school students are smoking every day,” said Frew. “That is too many.”
Middle school responses were received from 503 students. Of those responding, 3.4 percent said they used cigarettes once or twice a week but that number fell to one percent when it came to smoking every day.
3.8 percent of the respondents said they use chewing tobacco or snuff once or twice a week and one percent say they use it on a daily basis.
Frew said the FCFC has collected the data and a task force is now working on an action plan and programs to combat teen smoking.
Frew said most health insurance coverage offers options for people who have a desire to quit smoking and the state offers the Ohio Quitline. The Quitline can be accessed by calling 1-800-QUITNOW (1-800-784-8669.
Frew says the first step to quitting is to make the decision.
There are three really good reasons to quit,” she said. “First is for your family. You want to be around for years to come and watch for children and grandchildren grow up. Second is for your health. Smoking is associated with several diseases including cancer, heart disease, etc. Third is the cost. Most smokers spend between $1,500 and $3,000 per year on cigarettes,” she said.
In its report, the American Lung Association announced three bold goals:
*To reduce rates of smoking and tobacco use to less than 10 percent for all communities by 2024;
*Protect Americans from secondhand smoke by 2019;
*3. Ultimately eliminate the death and disease caused by tobacco.
The American Lung Association of Ohio plans to continue work with a broad coalition of stakeholders to raise the tax on tobacco products, fully fund scientifically-based tobacco prevention and cessation programs and pass tobacco-free campus policies for Ohio’s K-12 schools.