The American Lung Association has released a national ‘State of Tobacco Control’ report every year since 2003, grading every state’s ability to stop smoking. ABC 10 News Now senior reporter Mike Hoey looks at how Michigan fared from a U.P. perspective.
Michigan received failing grades in two of the four areas of the report — tobacco control and spending, and cessation program coverage. Michigan is spending about $4.7 million on tobacco control this year. The Centers for Disease Control recommend $121 million.
“At a lot of our regional meetings, we will talk a lot about what we can do with the sparse resources that we have, and unfortunately, it’s a lot of referring to a state quit line or giving print materials where we’re not able to work with people as much as we’d like to,” Marquette County Health Department health educator Sarah Derwin said.
Like most states, Michigan is spending the vast majority of its 1998 tobacco class-action lawsuit money on its general fund rather than on tobacco control. Michigan also did not require private health insurers to cover smoking cessation measures last year.
Former Marquette County Health Department employee Jim Harrington now works for the American Lung Association in Petoskey. He says tobacco companies are taking advantage of youth to create a new generation of smokers.
“We’re seeing a lot of products coming out that are flavored and are intentionally marketed to young people,” Harrington said. “And we’re seeing this from electronic cigarettes to candy-flavored products.”
The CDC says that 23.3% of Michigan adults smoke, and it says that smoking costs Michigan more than $7.2 billion a year in health care expenses and lost productivity. Derwin says smoking rates can and do decline when more funding and more effort are devoted to that purpose.
“There is still that fear that it can start coming across as not as big of an issue, and we know that when youth start using when they’re under 18, then we could have a problem for the rest of their life,” she said.
“In Marquette County, for example, when we invested more money in prevention services and passed smoke-free policies that were comprehensive, we saw smoking and tobacco use rates go down,” Harrington said.”
Michigan received a ‘C’ grade for its $2 per pack cigarette tax, which is above the national average of $1.53. It also received a ‘B’ for smoke-free air. Michigan does have a smoke-free workplace law, but the Michigan Department of Agriculture began last summer to allow smoking on bar and restaurant patios if food or beverages aren’t being prepared or served on them.