Time to Look Beyond the Industry’s Smokescreen

Image Tobacco is the only legal product in our country that, when used as directed, will kill half the people who use it. It costs Kansans 3,800 lives a year, $927M in health care costs and $906M in lost productivity. Kansas youth begin smoking at a rate of 2,800 new smokers per year and 61,000 Kansas kids alive today will eventually die of tobacco related causes. And remember, these are not just numbers. They are our families, our friends, and our co-workers.

J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, MD (Deputy Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society) recently stated, “This is clearly a crisis. We must do all we can to stop the tobacco epidemic in this country. The good news is we know how to turn back the statistics.” A comprehensive approach that includes excise taxes on tobacco products, comprehensive smoke-free laws and providing prevention and cessation programs at the state level has been shown by research to work. We applaud the Kansas legislature for protecting everyone’s right to breathe smoke-free air. But just like a stool that needs all three legs to stand, all three of these components are necessary to reduce tobacco use in Kansas. And Kansas lags behind on the other two components. The state tax is 79 cents per pack, lagging well below the national average, placing us 36th in the fifty states. The state spends only $900,000 of the $55M received from the Master Settlement on tobacco prevention and control, a mere 3.4% of the Centers for Disease Control recommendation as effective for tobacco control.

Lichtenfeld also makes the case that tobacco companies know what works in reducing their customer base, which is why their agenda is to distract us from proven interventions and instead pave the way for new products and tactics to keep people addicted. They are trying to shift the focus to new, untested products such as smokeless snus, dissolvables and electronic cigarettes. Their goal is to exempt these products from existing tobacco definition, smoke-free policies and tobacco taxes, using unverified claims they are less harmful. Industry supported bills are being seen in state legislatures across the country, using smoke and mirrors to distract us from what science tells us works.

And now we are looking at ground zero, how tobacco enters our communities. The tobacco industry spends vast sums of money each year on proven strategies to attract new users and retain current customers at the point of sale. To learn more about this, join TFW at the Kansas Health Foundation Tobacco Marketing Summit on May 28, 2014 to hear from national experts as well as our own store audit to look at possible solutions to tobacco marketing issues. Register for FREE!

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