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Lung Association report card fails Arizona on tobacco-control funds

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PHOENIX – An American Lung Association report card gives Arizona an A for keeping air free of tobacco smoke but gives harsher grades for its funding of efforts to keep people from taking up smoking and to help smokers quit.

The 2014 State of Tobacco Control report says that tobacco was responsible for 6,861 Arizona deaths in 2013 while costing $3.2 billion in medical costs and lost productivity.

The 2014 State of Tobacco Control report gives Arizona an F for its funding of tobacco-control programs, noting that the $20.7 million for fiscal 2014 is far less than the $60.1 million the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends in its best practices for states.

“It comes down to the lawmakers and decision-makers,” said Christian Stumpf, regional director of government relations for the American Lung Association of the Southwest. “They need to have the will to want to put money into that area.”

Wayne Tormala, bureau chief of the Arizona Department of Health Services’ Bureau of Tobacco and Chronic Disease, said many other states may be in Arizona’s position. While he said he agrees with CDC’s goals for funding tobacco-control programs, the standards are “far from what can be achieved by any state.”

“We consider ourselves to be a well-funded state,” he said.

Greg Vigdor, CEO of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association, said Arizona’s funding for tobacco-control programs has been stable over time.

“We’re doing a relatively good job,” he said.

Arizona’s grade for helping those attempting to quit smoking rose from an F in 2013 to a D.

The report notes that while Arizona’s Medicaid program covers all recommended medications for cessation it covers only phone counseling except for pregnant women and limits the duration of coverage and the number of attempts covered in a year.

The cessation grade also notes that funding for the Arizona Smokers’ Helpline is $3.11 per smoker, while the CDC recommends $10.53 per smoker.

Despite taxing tobacco at $2 per pack, higher than the national average of $1.53, Arizona received a grade of C. The report gave grades of A to states with a tax of at least $3.06 per pack.

Stumpf said a 10 percent increase in tobacco taxation leads to a 7 percent decrease in the number of people who use tobacco as well as boosting revenue for tobacco-control programs.

The grade of A in the category of Smokefree Air acknowledged the 2006 Smoke-Free Arizona Act, a voter-approved measure banning smoking in most enclosed public places and workplaces. Stumpf called it one of the strongest laws of its kind in the country.

“All Arizonans should be proud of the law,” he said.