Even though tobacco is a legal substance in the United States, attacks from both public and private sectors are unrelenting. Being a lucrative source for tax revenues, government officials stop short of banning the stuff outright even in the face of overwhelming medical evidence against it; instead they display schizophrenic behavior whenever smoke gets in their eyes. Vermont has a stiff $2.24 cigarette excise tax; the tax helps keeps part of the state's coffers flush.
Now the American Lung Association's State of Tobacco Control 2010 report released last week finds Vermont officials and anti-smoking special interests as schizophrenic as ever-at least when it comes to condemning tobacco from the pulpit on Sunday, while happily collecting tobacco tax revenues on Monday.
The report gave the state a high mark for its smoke free air policies. But the report finds significant room for improvement in the state's investment in tobacco prevention and control initiatives and its efforts to provide smoking cessation coverage for people trying to kick the habit.
The state earned a "B" for its cigarette tax which is higher than most Western and Midwestern states.
Tina Zuk of the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Vermont said, "A $1 increase in the cigarette excise tax would provide $10.2 million in new revenue. Raising the tax not only reduces tobacco consumption, it will provide much-needed revenue that will likely go to the state's health care programs, including Medicaid."
"...Much work still needs to be done to reduce the devastating impact of tobacco," said Rebecca Ryan, director of Health Promotion and Public Policy at the Lung Association in Vermont.
"As the recent U.S. Surgeon General's report on the devastating health impacts of smoking clearly indicate, we can and must do more to prevent people from smoking and help those who are ready to quit," she said.
Ryan said the association gave Vermont a 'D' grade for its investment in tobacco prevention and control efforts. This past year Vermont allocated $4.5 million in state funds for the state's comprehensive Tobacco Control Program and received an additional $1.36 million, including one-time stimulus funding, from the federal government.
Vermont fell fall short of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendation of $10.4 million resulting in a 'D' for this category, Ryan noted.
According to an American Lung Association news release, 85 percent of the money Vermont receives from the tobacco industry's master settlement agreement goes to Medicaid, with 4 percent directed to the state's Tobacco Control Program.
According to Ryan, the American Lung Association gave Vermont a 'B' grade for its cigarette tax. Ryan likes higher prices for cigarettes; she said it is proven to prevent youth smoking and motivate smokers to quit. It is difficult to find statistics, at least in Vermont, that support the claim.
Rayn said the American Lung Association would like elected officials to increase the tax by up to $1 per pack.
Despite legitimate health concerns, state officials and even anti-smoking groups seem to be content in keeping tobacco products legal-more taxes on tobacco help fund social and health programs proposed by special interests apparently invested in prolonging the tobacco legalization dilemma.