Advocates and volunteers of the American Heart Association are making great strides to pursue a tobacco-free America. Since enactment of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act in 2009, many provisions of the law have been implemented. For example, in September 2009, candy flavored cigarettes designed to entice kids to start smoking were banned. In June 2010, the sale of tobacco products to minors became a federal offense for the first time. The law now prohibits cigarette manufacturers from making misleading health claims about their products, banning terms like “light” and “low tar” in their marketing. The association continues to shape implementation of the law through regulatory comments submitted to FDA officials.
The association advocates for providing funding and insurance coverage for programs to help tobacco users quit, and increasing cigarette taxes to discourage tobacco use. In the past year, the association has worked with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on expanding coverage of tobacco cessation counseling to all Medicare beneficiaries.
The association continues to find success in efforts to ensure everyone the right to breathe smoke-free air. Kansas and Michigan both passed strong smoke-free air laws that will cover almost all workplaces, including restaurants and bars. Elsewhere, seven states have increased tobacco excise taxes to reduce the rate of smoking. The average state cigarette tax is now $1.42 per pack. Other state successes supported by the association include:
-New York passed legislation June 21 that will give the state the highest cigarette tax in the country. The new law adds $1.60 in state taxes to every pack sold starting July 1. The average price of cigarettes in New York City will be even higher, nearly $11 a pack.
-In South Carolina, the Legislature voted May 13 to override the governor’s veto and increase the cigarette tax from 50 cents to 57 cents a pack. This is a huge accomplishment for South Carolina, which has the lowest cigarette tax in the nation and had not increased it since 1977.
-In New Mexico, the cigarette tax was increased by 75 cents after the governor signed legislation to make cigarettes $1.66 a pack.
-Washington and Utah passed $1.00-a-pack increases in their cigarette tax.
-Hawaii raised its cigarette tax by 40 cents a pack.