This month marks 50 years since the release of the groundbreaking surgeon general’s report that first linked smoking to lung cancer and heart disease. Jen Schulte, government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, says as Iowa’s legislators begin the new session this week, they’ll be looking to several smoking-related issues. “Adequately funding tobacco cessation prevention programs, looking at the tobacco tax and also making sure we have a strong, comprehensive statewide smoke-free air act,” Schulte says.
Schulte says 42-percent of Americans smoked in 1964. Since then, that smoking rate has been cut by more than half to 19-percent. Iowa is slightly below the national average at 18.1-percent. Every year, the Centers for Disease Control issues recommendations for how much money individual states should spend on programs to help smokers quit and to keep young people from starting. Schulte says, “We do only fund at 14% of the CDC-recommended level so there is a huge gap there and it’s something that we continue to strive to fill.”
Iowa ranks 24th in the nation in terms of spending on smoking prevention and cessation programs. She says that level of spending is unfortunate. “There’s over 3,000 children starting each day,” Schulte says. “It’s why we need to continue to invest in comprehensive prevention programs that target children. We need to make sure they’re aware of the health risks and the long-term impact.”
She notes one plus, Iowa does have a comprehensive smoke-free law to protect residents from second-hand smoke in bars, restaurants and workplaces. She says tobacco is still the number one preventable cause of death claiming the lives of more than 443,000 Americans each year, while the use of smokeless and other tobacco products is on the rise, particularly among youth.
Learn more at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network website at: www.acscan.org