Our View: Kentucky must kick tobacco habit
Published 7:57 am Friday, January 27, 2017
Kentucky continues to have a conflicted relationship with tobacco as the crop remains an integral part of the state’s economy but is also essentially killing many of our citizens.
The American Lung Association recently released its “State of Tobacco Control” report showing the state is failing when it comes to initiatives that would curb tobacco use and save lives.
Now in its 15th year, the report grades all 50 states and the federal government on policies to prevent and reduce tobacco use. Once again this year, the majority earned poor grades.
Kentucky fell short, in the eyes of the ALA, as it has not increased the age of sale for tobacco products to 21 years old and remains among the nearly two dozen states that have not passed comprehensive smokefree laws and has one of the lowest tobacco taxes in the nation.
“Tobacco use is the leading cause of death and disease in our nation, and 26.2 percent of Kentucky residents currently smoke,” Heather Wehrheim, advocacy director of the American Lung Association in Kentucky, said in a prepared release. “We know what works when it comes to preventing and reducing tobacco use, what we need is Kentucky policymakers to implement the policies and programs called for in ‘State of Tobacco Control’ that would save lives and protect kids from a lifetime of addiction.”
Some of the key areas in which Kentucky received a failing grade include:
— Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs: Grade F
— Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws: Grade F
— Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade F
— Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco: Grade F
— Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21: Grade F
These results are disappointing to say the least. In fact, every year that goes by without significant changes being implemented jeopardizes our future.
Like any other drug or harmful substance that people become addicted to, tobacco use will never go away. But we hope to see more Kentucky tobacco farmers diversify and look at other crops to support their families and keep their farms alive.
Continuing to rely on tobacco as an economic driver will only further endanger the lives of Kentuckians.
For the future of our state and the health of our citizens, we must break the cycle of dependency, both economically and individually.