Though rates of smoking have declined in the U.S. over the last few decades, there is still much that needs to be done to fight this leading killer. It's well known that cigarette smoking is a main cause of a host of ailments including cancer, heart disease, stroke, asthma, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
While federal and state lawmakers have managed to pass a number of important bills designed to curb rates of smoking and limit second-hand smoke exposure, a new report from the American Lung Association finds 2014 was a bad year for furthering the agenda to make the country as smoke-free as possible.
The organization gave the country a failing grade on progress to implement FDA smoking regulations and enforce tobacco taxes. Overall the country earned a "C" grade for providing resources to help smokers quit.
According to the report, in 2014 not a single state passed comprehensive smoke-free laws or significantly increased tobacco taxes. Studies have shown that higher taxes on cigarettes prompt people to quit smoking, smoke less, or never start.
Last year, only a handful of states created policies that require state-run Medicaid to cover smoking cessation programs, including Connecticut, Maine and Ohio.
Some U.S. cities, including New Orleans; Montgomery, Alabama; and Lubbock, Texas say they are considering legislation to limit where smokers can light up in public.
Though the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has drawn up an evidence-based guide that outlines best practices for comprehensive tobacco control programs, Alaska and North Dakota were the only states to fully fund their tobacco prevention programs to meet the CDC guidelines.
The guidelines recommend creating intervention programs on a state and community level to promote healthier lifestyle habits, and integrating smoking cessation programs into existing health care systems, as part of Medicaid coverage or routine preventive care. The CDC also recommends harnessing the media to create high-impact anti-smoking campaigns.
It's true that these efforts cost money, but the American Lung Association says ultimately they would save state and federal health care dollars.
A 2012 study of Massachusetts' comprehensive Medicaid anti-smoking benefits found that every dollar spent helping smokers quit saved $3 in a little over a year.
On the federal level, last year the FDA issued guidance to health insurance companies that make coverage of smoking cessation medications mandatory under Obamacare. The FDA also drafted recommendations to regulate marketing and sales of electronic cigarettes, though the laws have yet to be passed. The CDC also launched two public health media campaigns, one of which was meant to target teens.
In its report, the American Lung Association urges lawmakers throughout the U.S. adopt the CDC's best practices in order to reach a number of ambitious goals, such as reducing smoking rates 10 percent by the year 2024, as well as passing laws that will protect all Americans from secondhand smoke.