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Controlling tobacco in Vermont: mixed grades

Vermont's tobacco control policies earned mixed grades, with low marks for tobacco control program funding and tobacco cessation coverage and high grades for smokefree air and tobacco excise taxes in the American Lung Association's State of Tobacco Control 2009reported released last week.

The State of Tobacco Control 2009 grades states on smokefree air laws, cigarette tax rates, tobacco prevention and control program funding, and state health insurance coverage of smoking cessation.

"Vermont has done a good job, despite limited resources, to prevent youth from starting to smoke and to help adults quit smoking. However, low income Vermonters have a higher rate of smoking than the general population and the youth smoking rate has not changed since 2005," said Rebecca Ryan, director of health promotion and public policy for the American Lung Association in Vermont. "To reduce health care costs, it is critical that we invest in preventing disease rather than treating it. Investing in the comprehensive tobacco control program will save lives and reduce Vermont's health care costs," she added.

Vermont received a 'D' for tobacco prevention and control spending. The state currently spends $4.8 million from the tobacco industry Master Settlement Agreement and the Tobacco Trust Fund compared to the $10.4 million recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Vermont received an 'A' in smokefree air laws, a 'B' for cigarette taxes and an 'F' for state health insurance coverage for smoking cessation. This grade evaluates the provision for coverage from Medicaid, state employee health plans and state mandates for private insurers. The low grade should not be viewed as a complete assessment of the state's tobacco cessation efforts. Fortunately, most Vermont smokers can receive free coaching and nicotine replacement therapy through the Vermont Quit Network, coordinated by the department of health.

Tobacco-related illness, the number-one preventable cause of death in Vermont, is responsible for an estimated 830 deaths and costs the state an estimated $434 million in health care and lost productivity each year.

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