Health Team

Study: N.C. failing in tobacco control

Posted January 13, 2009 4:41 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina is failing in its tobacco-control laws and policies, according to an American Lung Association study released Tuesday.

Tobacco is linked to the top causes of preventable deaths in the United States, including heart disease and many cancers, and costs the country $193 billion annually.

The association evaluated the state in four categories:
  • Tobacco Control Program Funding – The state, along with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, allotted about $18.5 million for 2009. The CDC’s best-practices level would be $106 million.
  • State Smoking Restrictions – The state has no provisions for private workplaces, childcare facilities, restaurants, bars, retail stores or recreational/cultural facilities.
  • Tobacco tax rate per pack of 20 cigarettes – North Carolina charges 35 cents, which is about 20 cents per pack to low. The ALA suggests 50 cents per pack in federal tax.
  • State Cessation Coverage – Under the state Medicaid program, various medications are covered for those trying to quit smoking. Counseling is not included, and minimal co-payments are required. Only certain medications are covered for state employees. Those employees also face limits on the duration of coverage and an annual limit on attempts to quit.

"The State of Tobacco Control 2008" report showed that about 23 percent of adults in North Carolina smoke.

Economically, smoking has cost the state $6.2 billion, a figure based on health expenditures in 2004 and annual loses in workers' productivity from 2000 through 2004.

Smoking contributed to an average of 12,264 deaths annually from 2000 through 2004, according to the report. About 4,000 North Carolinians died from lung cancer each year and about 3,100 from respiratory diseases in the same period.

North Carolina has succeeded in reducing youth smoking rates. The state passed a law in 2007 that required all schools to be tobacco free. The law took effect in August 2008.

The study showed that the high school smoking rate in the state was 23 percent and the middle school smoking rate was about 6 percent.

The state was one of 16 to receiving failing grades in the national study.

The report found that states that enact policies and programs – high tobacco-product taxes, prevention and cessation programs and comprehensive smoke-free laws – are likely to see financial benefits.

No state in the entire U.S. received solid A’s in this year’s report.

Nationally the report said Congress and President Bush failed to authorize the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulation of tobacco products.

The report showed government’s policies on smoking cessation coverage are weak or non-existent.