An American Lung Association report card on states’ tobacco policies shows Connecticut to be a struggling student.
The group released its annual State of Tobacco Control 2010 report grading all states based on a number of anti-tobacco measures.
Connecticut got a failing grade for general spending on tobacco control. Since 1998 Connecticut has received $1.29 billion from the Tobacco and Health Trust Fund but has spent $9.1 million on prevention programs. A West Hartford lawmaker has introduced a bill to the legislature to increase the amount of money spent on prevention programs.
The Lung Association gave Connecticut an “F” for its efforts to help low-income smokers and state employees quit. The state is one of only four that does not cover smoking cessation for most Medicaid recipients. As of Oct. 1, the state began covering cessation for pregnant women on Medicaid as mandated by federal health care reform. Connecticut provides state employees with some access to smoking cessation treatment medications and phone and online counseling, but this coverage does not meet the Center for Disease Control’s recommendation for comprehensive cessation treatment, according to the report.
Medicaid programming is limited by the funding the Department of Social Services receives in its budget, state officials said previously. All Connecticut residents have access to Quitline, a free telephone service that helps smokers quit and offers nicotine replacement therapy as its budget allows.
The lung association and the Mobilize Against Tobacco for Children’s Health (MATCH) Coalition want to see legislation passed this session to extend smoking cessation coverage to all Medicaid patients. It also supports a requirement that private insurers cover smoking cessation.
The state got a “C” in protecting citizens from second hand smoke, a grade based on laws restricting smoking in some settings. The lung association will push for passage of two new laws in this legislative session. One bans smoking in workplaces employing fewer than five people. The other bans smoking on the grounds of child day care centers, group day care homes and family daycare homes during business hours.
Cigarette taxes provided the one bright spot on the report card. The state got an “A” for its $3-per-pack tax, the second highest in New England. Some studies identify higher cigarette taxes as discouraging youth from starting to smoke and motivating existing smokers to quit.
“This report clearly demonstrates that much work needs to be done to protect our residents from the dangers of tobacco,” said Dr. David Hill in a prepared statement. Hill is past chair of the American Lung Association Leadership Board in Connecticut.
State Rep. Andy Fleischmann’s bill would dedicate 33 percent of tobacco funds and money raised from taxes on tobacco products to tobacco education, prevention and cessation programs; promoting pulmonary health; reducing the incidence of asthma; and expanding access to health care for uninsured children and adults.
“It’s outrageous that Connecticut currently spends less than a fraction of a percent of the tobacco funds we receive to hep people quit smoking or stop kids from starting,’’ said Fleischmann, a West Hartford Democrat. “One our of four of Connecticut’s high school students currently smoke so clearly we have to do more than we’re doing. Tobacco smoke is the leading cause of preventable illness and death. We have a responsibility to educate students so that they never start.’’