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Mixed grades for state's tobacco control

Even though tobacco is a legal substance in the United States, attacks from both public and private sectors are unrelenting. Being a lucrative source for tax revenues, government officials stop short of banning the stuff outright even in the face of overwhelming medical evidence against it; instead they display schizophrenic behavior whenever smoke gets in their eyes. Vermont has a stiff $2.24 cigarette excise tax; the tax helps keeps part of the state's coffers flush.

Now the American Lung Association's State of Tobacco Control 2010 report released last week finds Vermont officials and anti-smoking special interests as schizophrenic as ever-at least when it comes to condemning tobacco from the pulpit on Sunday, while happily collecting tobacco tax revenues on Monday.

The report gave the state a high mark for its smoke free air policies. But the report finds significant room for improvement in the state's investment in tobacco prevention and control initiatives and its efforts to provide smoking cessation coverage for people trying to kick the habit.

The state earned a "B" for its cigarette tax which is higher than most Western and Midwestern states.

Tina Zuk of the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Vermont said, "A $1 increase in the cigarette excise tax would provide $10.2 million in new revenue. Raising the tax not only reduces tobacco consumption, it will provide much-needed revenue that will likely go to the state's health care programs, including Medicaid."

"...Much work still needs to be done to reduce the devastating impact of tobacco," said Rebecca Ryan, director of Health Promotion and Public Policy at the Lung Association in Vermont.

"As the recent U.S. Surgeon General's report on the devastating health impacts of smoking clearly indicate, we can and must do more to prevent people from smoking and help those who are ready to quit," she said.

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