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Our Opinion: Failed anti-smoking efforts

The only positive for Missouri in a new American Lung Association report is the state has plenty of room for improvement.

In four separate categories, Missouri received a grade of “F.” The categories include: tobacco prevention, smoke-free air; cigarette tax; and cessation.

The report lists state funding this year for tobacco prevention at $58,693. Coupled with $5.5 million in federal funding, that total left Missouri woefully short of the federal Center for Disease Control’s recommended spending level of more than $73 million.

The report reads: “Thumbs down for Missouri for spending little state money on tobacco control programs despite smoking costing the state over $4.7 billion in economic costs every year.”

The report cites more than 9,584 deaths in the state attributable to smoking.

The CDC recommendation and economic costs may be estimated on the high side, but Missouri’s spending is shameful, particularly since about $40 million in tobacco settlement funds largely have been diverted from anti-smoking programs.

The report also criticized the state’s cigarette tax, giving Missouri a second thumbs down for the lowest cigarette tax in the country at 17 cents a pack.

The only deviation from a failing grade is in coverage of smoking cessation, where the report credited Missouri with a thumbs up for “expanding the tobacco cessation benefit under Medicaid to all enrollees.”

Anti-smoking forces and health care groups — including the American Lung Association — again this year will be backing proposals to increase the state’s cigarette tax.

A tax increase, however, would help fill a gap created because the state consistently has diverted funds from a tobacco settlement awarded for smoking prevention and cessation programs.

Our purpose here is not to defend smoking; it is an unhealthy, expensive practice.

But it was the state that diverted millions of dollar in settlement money and appropriated a relatively paltry amount to anti-smoking efforts.

That’s why Missouri received failing grade across the board.

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