By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter
The American Cancer Society Action Network has ranked Alabama as one of the worst places in the United States for prevention of tobacco-related cancers.
The group released a report yesterday which said Alabama, along with other Southern states, had failed to properly address smoking and cancer prevention. The Center measured these on a three-point scale with Green meaning doing well, yellow meaning improving and red meaning falling short.
The group gave Alabama a red rating for the following areas: smoke-free laws, cigarette tax rates, and tobacco prevention and cessation program funding.
Cigarette smoking accounts for 31 percent of the cancer deaths in Alabama. This is about 3 percentage points higher than the national average of 28 percent.
Cigarette taxes in Alabama, which are adjusted by the Legislature, are levied depending on what kind of tobacco product you buy. Typically, a pack of 20 cigarettes will receive a tax stamp—issued by Alabama Department of Revenue—of 67.5 cents.
The Director of Government Relations for the American Cancer Society Action Network’s Alabama Chapter Ginny Campbell said excise taxes on cigarettes haven’t increased since 2015.
“The time has come for our elected officials to recognize that a significant increase to the tobacco tax would not only lower tobacco-use rates but also have the added benefit of saving the state millions of dollars in health care costs,” Campbell said.
The report estimates that Alabama spends over $1 billion in medical costs from tobacco-related illnesses each year.
In a 2015 public letter, then-Acting State Health Officer Thomas Miller acknowledged that Alabama had a problem with tobacco related deaths. The letter concerned reviewing a new plan to tackle tobacco related deaths in Alabama.
“Although we have made progress since the last five-year plan was developed in 2010, there is still work to be done,” Miller said. “Tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and in Alabama.”
Miller then called for another 5-year plan spanning from 2015-2020 to reduce the amount of tobacco-related deaths in Alabama. The plan consists of three goals: reduce tobacco use among minors, reduce and end tobacco use among adults, and reducing exposure to second-hand smoking.
The program is funded by the Center for Disease Control, the Alabama Medicaid Agency, and the Alabama Department of Public Health.
There is no state-wide banning on smoking. Instead, individual local governments ban smoking at locations that they deem appropriate such an enclosed places and restaurants.
In addition to tobacco related cancer, the Center also rated Alabama a red rating in breast & cervical cancer early detection funding and indoor tanning device restrictions and increased access to Medicaid. The only two areas where Alabama scored in the green was treating patients who were already seriously ill.