It looks like Pennsylvania’s report card will not being going up on the refrigerator this year — the report card issued recently by the American Lung Association in its annual State of Tobacco Control Report , that is.
Pennsylvania has a lot of work ahead before it can get where it needs to be in terms of tobacco control, Deb Brown , CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic , said.
The report, which assigns letter grades to all 50 states in four categories of tobacco control, found that Pennsylvania does not perform adequately in any category, Brown said.
Pennsylvania received an “F” in cessation, or quitting, coverage, an “F” in tobacco prevention and control program funding, a ”C” in cigarette tax and a “C” in smoke-free air policy, Brown said.
For the upcoming fiscal year, Pennsylvania budgeted 11 percent of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -recommended spending on tobacco prevention and control, according to the report.
Aimee Tysarczyk , Pennsylvania Department of Health director of communications, said it is important to realize that the state spent more than $14 million on tobacco prevention last year, which is “no small number.”
“While we are all experiencing budget cuts, we are doing what we can with what we have, and Pennsylvania is making progress,” Tysarczyk said.
In terms of a smoke-free air policy, Penn State doesn’t have one. Penn State’s current smoking policy allows for smoking in most outdoor locations on campus, except where smoke could potentially enter buildings, according to the University Policy Manual .
According to the most recent Penn State survey on student smoking behaviors, about a quarter of Penn State students smoke. More than half of these students are actively trying to quit, the survey found.
Spencer Paret said that he thinks Penn State’s current policy is reasonable, but thinks it would be better if there were more designated smoking areas with benches. Paret (sophomore-industrial engineering) said that if there were more designated areas, he thinks students would be less likely to smoke in other areas on campus.
As previously reported, http://www.collegian.psu.edu/archive/2008/09/25/officials_campus_will_not_beco.aspx the 14 Pennsylvania state-owned universities banned smoking on their campuses in 2008. Penn State officials have said that such a ban at Penn State could not reasonably be enforced, as previously reported.
Andrew Kwiatkowski said he thinks the current policy is fair, and that expanding it to a campus-wide ban would be going too far. Kwiatkowski (graduate-actuarial science) said that it would be unreasonable to expect students to walk off campus to smoke a cigarette. Paret also said he thinks such a policy would infringe on people’s rights.
Tysarczyk pointed out that Pennsylvania was not the only state to receive poor grades on the report, saying that 43 of the 50 states received an “F” in funding.
Brown said there are several “quick fixes” that could improve the state of tobacco control. The most important action the state can take to improve its grade is to increase the amount of money spent on preventative measures, Brown said.
“If you invest a dollar now, 10 years down the road you will reap the benefits of that investment because you will have young people who never started smoking,” Brown said. “You won’t have the high cost associated with tobacco-related diseases.”
The exact cost of these tobacco-related diseases nationwide, according the ALA report, is $263 million per day in health care expenditures.
Brown said the state could also make simple policy changes to improve its grades. For example, the current Pennsylvania Clean Indoor Air Act still allows for smoking in certain bars and casinos. Banning smoking in these places could significantly reduce the amount of secondhand smoke to which nonsmokers are exposed, she said.