Colorado gets mixed grades when it comes to tobacco control | CraigDailyPress.com

Colorado gets mixed grades when it comes to tobacco control

Some strong local tobacco prevention efforts prevail

Michael Neary

The American Lung Association has issued an F grade to the state of Colorado for tobacco prevention and control program funding and tobacco taxes, and a C grade in access to cessation services. ALA recommends increasing the state's tobacco tax and enhancing Colorado’s smoke-free law to include electronic cigarettes, as shown above.

A report issued earlier this year by the American Lung Association unveiled mostly low grades for the state of Colorado when it comes to reducing tobacco use. The state received F grades for tobacco prevention and control program funding and tobacco taxes, and a C grade in access to cessation services.

The state also received an A for smoke-free air, which entails smoking restrictions in a variety of public places.

Bob Doyle, director of lung health programs for the American Lung Association in Colorado, said the state is not alone in receiving a poor grade for recommended levels of funding.

"Unfortunately there are a lot of states with an F" in that category, he said.

But Doyle also pointed out that Colorado ranks 37th in state cigarette excise tax rates. The average tax rate is $1.61 a pack, and Colorado's rate is 84 cents.

"We have some of the lowest tobacco prices in the country," he said.

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Doyle also cited the 2013 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, which noted that 25 percent of Colorado 12th-graders "smoked cigarettes or cigars, used chewing tobacco, snuff, or dip on one or more of past 30 days."

Regarding whether or not efforts to curtail smoking might rankle some residents, Doyle said he believed the majority of people support such measures — especially when it comes to smoking.

"Many people have experienced the harm (of smoking) firsthand," he said. “More and more people appreciate and want people to get help quitting."

Doyle said that employers, also, recognize the health care costs that tobacco use can create.

The effort to help people quit smoking, he said, "crosses political boundaries because it's a wonderful way to lower costs for businesses and costs for families."

The American Lung Association in Colorado recommends that the state increase the tobacco tax, "enhance Colorado's smoke-free law to include electronic cigarettes" and "provide level funding for tobacco prevention and control programs."

Among the resources in Moffat County to help people curtail tobacco use is a program run by the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association called Baby and Me Tobacco Free — a program to help pregnant women quit smoking. People seeking information can go to http://nwcovna.org/what_we_do/public-health/tobacco-cessation.htmlhttp://nwcovna.org/what_we_do/public-health/tobacco-cessation.html..

http://nwcovna.org/what_we_do/public-health/tobacco-cessation.html.

Karli Bockelman, Moffat County program director for Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, said the organization would soon be conducting a study of local stores.

"If the tobacco product is three feet or lower, then it seems like they're advertising towards children because that's about their height," she said. People who conduct the study will also see if advertisements are near candy.

Bockelman has also conducted activities in the area at what's called "Fifth Quarter," which she described as "an alternative activity" after sporting events.

"At those events, I've been giving away stickers and buttons," she explained. Items include the phrase, "Tobacco: The Kiss of Death."

Cassandra Vigil, the Routt County program director for Grand Futures, said resources for people who want to quit smoking do exist.

"There's a lot of help out there," she said, noting national phone lines to help people quit smoking. "There's also work being done to keep it from happening."

Vigil, who worked as the Moffat County program director before moving locations in December, said the work of Grand Futures focuses especially on prevention.

"We primarily work with ages 12 to 18," she said. "We try to stop it before it starts."

One fact that often surprises teenagers, Vigil said, is just how much smoking costs — about $2,000 a year for a person who smokes a pack a day. But Vigil also said she emphasizes the things young people like to do — often involving physical activity — that can be impeded by smoking.

"We talk to youth about what they like to do," she said, "and what's healthy and positive in their lives."

Contact Michael Neary at 970-875-1794 or Contact Michael Neary at 970-875-1794 or mneary@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Education.Contact Michael Neary at 970-875-1794 or mneary@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Education.