An advocacy group says Wisconsin falls short when it comes to protecting residents from the harms of tobacco.
Wisconsin got an A for smoke-free air — protecting people in public and at work, but Dona Wininsky with the American Lung Association-Wisconsin chapter says the Badger State only got a B for its cigarette tax. She says Wisconsin’s tax is higher than the national average. The tax increases the overall price, which is a great deterrent for using the product.
The group’s State of Tobacco Control 2012 report grades the state based on existing policies. As for tobacco control and funding, the state got an F. The report also gives Wisconsin an F for its coverage of cessation treatments and services. Wininsky says the state’s Quitline is underfunded. The CDC’s recommendation is $10.50 per smoker to adequately help them quit; instead, the Quitline is currently funded at 73 cents per smoker. Wininsky says she doesn’t have huge expectations to be funded at the high levels recommended by the CDC, but says she would at least like to see the program restored to where it had been before the cuts in the recent budget.
Wininsky says, at 20.7 percent, the high school smoking rates are still “uncomfortably” high, but she says the good news is the percentage of youth smokers is down from previous years. According to the American Lung Association, 443,000 people die from tobacco-related illnesses and secondhand smoke exposure each year. Tobacco causes an estimated 7,240 Wisconsin deaths annually and costs the state’s economy $3.7 billion in healthcare costs and lost productivity. Compared to the rest of the nation, Wisconsin falls somewhere in the middle.
Wininsky says up until last year, Wisconsin was getting an F in smokefree air, too. So, going from F to A is a leap forward. Also, the cigarette tax has been increased a couple of times, which helps deter people from smoking in the first place.