The American Cancer Society Can Action Network (ACS CAN) has released their 14th edition of How Do You Measure Up? which details what each state legislature is doing to reduce cancer in their state. According to the report, “for every dollar spent to increase physical activity, improve nutrition, and prevent smoking and other tobacco use, the return on investment is almost $5.60.” When it comes to tobacco, some of the suggestions made in the report include tobacco tax increases, smoke- and tobacco-free policies and fully funded “statewide tobacco prevention and cessation programs” as well as increasing comprehensive insurance coverage for cessation. The future benefits would far outweigh the initial costs.
Tobacco companies understand that tax increases would “have an adverse impact on sales of tobacco products,” especially with teens who are more sensitive to price increases of tobacco products. The current cigarette tax in Florida, which has not been increased since 2009, is $1.34/pack, putting our state in 29th place and below the average state cigarette excise tax of $1.63/pack. Currently, Florida has no tax on cigars or e-cigarettes and only taxes snuff and chewing and smoking tobacco at 85% of wholesale/manufacturer’s price. Taxes on these items have not increased since 2009.
Florida enacted the Clean Indoor Air Act in 1985 and added an amendment in 2003 after 71% of Florida voters voted to prohibit smoking in enclosed indoor workplaces, and public and private businesses including restaurants. There are exceptions to the rules with stand-alone bars, retail tobacco shops and airport smoking lounges still allowing smoking. There is no doubt that everyone would benefit from 100% smoke-free laws for all public areas in Florida.
“States can reduce their smoking rates and health care costs” by providing cessation services but not all states do. According to American’s Health Rankings, our state is ranked 33rd due to our high percentage of uninsured population. The American Cancer Society reports Florida has “no type of counseling or no FDA approved tobacco cessation medication covered for all enrollees.” Yet the State of Tobacco Control, put out by the American Lung Association, states the Florida Medicaid program covers five types of medications, and counseling varies by plan. Participants may have co-payments and may have to use one type of the treatment before trying another. Medications are limited to 6 months and dollar limits vary by plan. There is no provision for private insurance.
In a perfect situation, all public spaces would be smoke- and tobacco free, all states would increase tobacco prevention and cessation funding which would reap results now and would save states money in the future, and all states would increase tobacco taxes. We may not live in a perfect world, but we all have room to improve upon measures that would improve public health.