'Behind the times'

Colorado receives mixed reviews in tobacco report

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Colorado received high marks for funding anti-smoking efforts and legislating smoke-free air, but needs to do better at limiting youth access to tobacco products, according to a recent report.

The 2006 American Lung Association State of Tobacco Control -- an annual report grading the 50 states, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico on four tobacco-related categories -- was released Friday. Colorado received mixed reviews.

The state received "A" grades for prevention funding and smoke-free air, but failing marks for restrictions on youth access and taxing tobacco products.

Teresa Wright, tobacco prevention coordinator for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, said the VNA cannot do much to address the state's failing grade for tobacco taxing. But, she said local efforts can be made to educate the public about needed changes in policies on youth access.

"I think it's education, but I also think it's definitely policy development," Wright said. "We can continue to get the word out that it is regrettable that kids can get their hands on (tobacco products)."

The VNA supports bolstering Colorado laws to require tobacco retailers to obtain sales licenses and to strengthen penalties for retailers caught selling to minors.

About 19 percent of Colorado high school students smoke, and an additional 5,800 students become regular smokers each year, according to Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Wright, who also is a member of the Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, said most teenage smokers are addicted by ages 18 to 20.

"We're just behind the times," Wright said. "This just shows there is work left to be done."

Colorado's grades were slightly better than those received by neighboring states. Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska and Utah each received at least one failing grade. Nebraska and Kansas ranked among the lowest graded states in the country, receiving three "F"s and a "D" each, joining Mississippi, West Virginia, Illinois and Indiana.

States receiving failing grades across the board were South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia. Ken--tucky and North Carolina account for about two-thirds of all tobacco grown in the United States, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For more information on tobacco prevention, contact Teresa Wright, VNA tobacco prevention program coordinator, at 871-7639.

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