Alaska Has Mixed Results in Working to Reduce Tobacco Use
Momentum Gaining Around State for Smoke-free Laws
Anchorage, Alaska – Alaska took steps forward in 2012 to reduce tobacco use in some areas, but still has work to do to protect more of the public from secondhand smoke, according to the American Lung Association’s “State of Tobacco Control 2013” report released today.
The Lung Association’s “State of Tobacco Control” report tracks progress on key tobacco control policies at the federal and state level, assigning grades based on whether laws are adequately protecting citizens from the enormous toll tobacco use takes on lives and the economy.
Alaska received the following grades for 2012:
- Tobacco Prevention and Control Funding: A
- Smokefree Air: F
- Cigarette Tax: C
- Cessation Coverage: F*
*Due to current data on tobacco cessation coverage for state employees being unavailable, Alaska was graded based on cessation coverage under Medicaid and quitline investment per smoker only.
Each year, 443,000 people die from tobacco-related illnesses and secondhand smoke exposure. Tobacco causes an estimated 488 deaths in Alaska annually and costs the state’s economy over $448 million in healthcare costs and lost productivity, a tremendous burden that our state can ill afford.
Momentum continues around the state for smokefree policies at the local level. In October 2012, voters in Palmer, Alaska voted to approve an ordinance prohibiting smoking in almost all public places and workplaces. Palmer will join Anchorage, Juneau, Nome and several other Alaska communities with comprehensive smokefree laws.
“Many Alaskans are surprised that we don’t already have a statewide smokefree law covering all public places and workplaces, just because Anchorage and Juneau are covered,” said Marge Stoneking, Alaska Director, “but we don’t. Half of our state’s population is unprotected from secondhand smoke at work and in public places. Alaska must make it a priority to pass policies that protect our citizens from secondhand smoke and help smokers quit.”
Amidst an overall lackluster year for nationwide tobacco control, Alaska stood out by being one of only two states that is funding its state tobacco control program at or above the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The 11th annual report shows how money is often at the root of the leading cause of preventable death, as state and federal policymakers are failing to battle a deep-pocketed, ever-evolving tobacco industry.
About the American Lung Association in Alaska
The American Lung Association in Alaska is a non-profit, voluntary public health organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease in Alaska. Our programs focus on the areas of air quality, tobacco prevention and cessation and lung health.