D.C. area falling short in smoking cessation, report finds

WASHINGTON — Just how well is the D.C. area taking on tobacco use? Not well at all, the American Lung Association says.

In its annual State of Tobacco Control report, the association looks at anti-smoking policies and programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

D.C. and Maryland got mixed grades for their efforts, while Virginia failed on all counts, with one of the worst scores in the nation.

“Some of the problem areas are tobacco prevention and control funding,” says Deborah Brown, president and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic.

This is the one area where all three local jurisdictions fall way short, each earning an “F” grade on their tobacco control report card.

Brown says programs across the region just aren’t given enough money to do their job — including those funded as part of the 1998 settlement between state governments and tobacco companies.

Funding is one of four areas rated in the report. The area also performed poorly in providing access to smoking cessation programs.

“We want to make sure that anyone who wants to quit — whether they are in a state Medicaid program, a state employee program, or a private insurance program, we want to make sure they have access to all the quit or cessation tools that they need,” Brown says.

Maryland and Virginia also got low marks on raising tobacco taxes to discourage smoking, with Virginia’s tax of 30 cents a pack cited as the second-lowest in the nation.

Virginia earned the dubious distinction of being one of only eight states in the country to get straight “F”s.

There was one bright spot for the region in the report. Both Maryland and D.C. got “A” grades for smoke-free air.

“These policies join a majority of states to protect residents and employees and visitors from secondhand smoke,” Brown says.

She says the bottom line is that, around the nation, much more needs to be done to curb smoking — especially among young people.

“We are missing a clear opportunity to save lives by not taking action to prevent and reduce tobacco use in the D.C. metropolitan area,” Brown explains, saying one in four high school students is currently using tobacco products and the region needs to take aggressive action.

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