Smokefree DC is a citizen-based group whose goal is to promote smokefree environments in Washington, DC.

Washington Post slams Virginia tobacco control efforts

In an editorial published over the weekend, The Washington Post slammed Virginia for its tobacco control efforts and praised Maryland for doing everything right.

Maryland has hit “the trifecta of policy choices,” the Post said. It raised tobacco taxes, invested in a smoking prevention program and passed a strong smokefree workplace law.

Virginia, on the other hand, “chose lethal [policies] that enabled smokers to keep on killing themselves,” the Post wrote. That state did raise its cigarette taxes in 2004, but that’s not saying much, because that tax is the second-lowest of all states. Virginia finally enacted a smokefree workplaces law last year, but it has loopholes (that’s our editorial comment, not the Post’s). And its spending on anti-smoking campaigns has lagged.

Wondering what the point of this editorial is? We were too, even after we read to the end. In the last two paragraphs, the piece takes an odd twist, veering off into how Maryland handles alcohol. The Post encourages the state t impose a higher liquor tax.

There was no mention in the editorial about the District, which in recent years also has hit the trifecta of tobacco control policies.

D.C. enacted a strong smokefree law that took full effect in January 2007, raised it tobacco tax in 2009 (making it one of the highest in the country) and invested in a good cessation program.

As a result, the number of District smokers decreased from 20.9 percent in 2004 to 16.2 percent in 2008. The number of District smokers seeking assistance in quitting significantly increased. The progress is documented in this close-out report done for the D.C. Tobacco Free Families Campaign last year.

Unfortunately, the progress is in jeopardy. As we have previously noted, tobacco control is not something that policymakers can do once then turn away from and expect to maintain the same level of success. It takes constant effort to stop teens from taking up smoking and to help adult smokers quit.

And unfortunately, that seems to be what is largely happening here. The D.C. budget needs to be cut, so there isn’t money to pour into a cessation program. The American Lung Association’s D.C. chapter was closed earlier this year; some of the services have moved but. it’s not quite the same as when the Tobacco Free Families Program was running.

The good news is that the Department of Health got a $4.9 million grant in the spring for tobacco control from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some of that is to be spent on marketing and outreach, particularly to stop teem smoking, and some on cessation. The DOH is still working out details.

We hope to see some action soon. If more time slips by without any concerted and organized effort, those great numbers we saw at the end of 2009 are likely to change.

Unfortunately, the pro

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