Lung Association: Raise cigarette taxes, end indoor smoke in PA
The American Lung Association released its State of Tobacco Control 2014 report on Tuesday, calling Pennsylvania’s record into the new year somewhat mixed.
We’ve failed to protect children from second-hand smoke, curb tobacco-related disease, and adequately tax cigarettes, according to the report. And if things continue going as they have, we can continue living with those Lung Association-estimated 20,000 Pennsylvania deaths per year and $9 billion in “healthcare and lost productivity.”
The Lung Association gives states letter grades, like schools do, for each category of combating tobacco smoke. Pennsylvania got an “F” in funding for tobacco prevention, “C” in smokefree air, “C” in cigarette taxes, and “F” in cessation coverage.
The Lung Association’s Mid-Atlantic CEO Deborah Brown noted last year that the state needs to close the exemptions in the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act, so bars that make less than 20 percent of their profits from food, and private clubs, would not be exempt.
“[O]ur state’s leaders still need to do more, especially when it comes to helping smokers quit and eliminating the gaping exemptions to the clean indoor air law. All workers in the state should receive equal protection from secondhand smoke. We have a lot of work ahead in 2014,” noted Brown of the report’s findings.
“Casinos and some bars still allow indoor smoking, exposing workers to the dangers of secondhand smoke. These loopholes must be closed,” reads the report’s summary on Pennsylvania. State Rep. Mario Scavello (R-Monroe) has been at the forefront of this issue, attempting to close the loopholes. “[A]ll tobacco products are lethal weapons that kill from both ends,” he noted in a recent press release. And he’s expanded his goals as of recent to take on e-cigarettes, too.
“While one end of the cigarette, cigar and electronic cigarette is suicide, the other is murder. That’s because the effects of secondhand smoke have proven dangerous to all who are surrounded by it,” he said. “We shouldn’t be requiring employees in casinos, bars and other industries to face health risks associated with secondhand smoke any longer; now is the time to adjust our current law.”
Additionally, a cigarette tax was proposed last year for Philadelphia that would have helped the city expand funding to its public schools. The bill passed City Council unanimously but stalled in the State Legislature, approval of which was required to raise revenue. For a brief, not-so-brief history of smoking laws in Philadelphia, check this out.
Follow @RandyLoBasso on Twitter.