Nebraska received failing grades for its funding for cessation programs, funding for prevention and control and for its cigarette tax of 64-cents a pack.
James Martinez, spokesman for the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest, says Nebraska’s grade point average of just one on a four-point scale is “unacceptable.”
“When we’re looking at access to cessation services, in other words, if someone wants to quit smoking, we do believe the state should help them,” Martinez says. “It saves health care costs across the state as well as it helps people make that decision and take that important step in their lives.”
Nebraska’s only passing grade came for its statewide smoking ban which covers virtually all public places and workplaces. Still, he says the state doesn’t make nearly enough of an effort to fund its cessation and prevention programs.
“When you get an F in something like that, it’s alarming,” Martinez says, “and it really calls attention to our leadership in the state to do something about it.”
Nebraska’s cigarette tax of 64-cents a pack is very low. Iowa, for example, charges a state tax of a $1.36 per pack. A bill to more than double the Nebraska cigarette tax, by 72-cents, failed in the 2013 legislature.
Nebraska gets many millions of dollars every year in tobacco settlement money as well as federal dollars, but only spends a small fraction of it on programs that help people quit smoking or programs to keep them from starting.
“It’s unfortunate that when they allocate the funding for something like tobacco prevention and control programs, they’re not using all of those funds,” Martinez says. “They’re not even using half of what they should be using that funding for. It’s unfortunate.”
The report says nearly 2,300 Nebraskans die every year from smoking-related causes, while 18.5% of Nebraska adults smoke along with almost 11% of high schoolers.
See the full “State of Tobacco Control 2015” report at the website: www.lung.org.