Lung Association releases annual report on tobacco issues

DES MOINES — The “State of Tobacco Control” report issued by the Iowa American Lung Association shows the state’s grades have not changed from last year.

Association advocacy director, Kristina Hamilton, says there has been one recent improvement in tobacco prevention. She says Iowa’s Medicaid program now provides a comprehensive quit smoking benefit.

“This is something that the Lung Association is very excited about, because it provides new opportunities to help smokers on Medicaid quit,” she says. The state received an F grade for providing access to services to help people quit tobacco prior to the recent change. The report also gives Iowa an F grade for ending the sale of flavored tobacco products, the level of state tobacco taxes, and the amount of funding of tobacco prevention programs.

“Despite receiving over 265 million dollars from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes in Iowa — the state only funds tobacco control efforts at 17.1% of the level that the CDC recommends,” Hamilton says. “So, we really want to at a minimum protect the four million dollars in tobacco control funding at the state level.”

The one area where the state gets an A grade is the Smokefree Air Law. “Our smoke-free air law it is very strong, we just want to see the loophole closed for casinos,” Hamilton says. Currently, smoking is allowed in restricted areas within casinos and we would like to see that loophole closed to protect workers and patrons.”

Hamilton says they would also like to see E-cigarettes defined and taxed as tobacco products. “We are very concerned about the use of electronic cigarettes among youth. Those rates have risen in past years and we are very concerned about that,” she says. She says smoking rates have dropped from 25 percent 20 years ago when they first did the report to below 16% now.

“Smoking rates are still high among men, indigenous people, LGBT people, and people of lower socioeconomic status. So, we still have to remain vigilant and we definitely have made a huge dent in smoking rates in the state of Iowa,” Hamilton says. She says tobacco use remains our leading cause of preventable death and disease.