Miller: Iowa Lags in Reducing Tobacco UseDES MOINES-- Attorney General Tom Miller said Friday that new figures indicate Iowa is falling behind the rest of the nation in reducing tobacco consumption.
"Tobacco use appears to have dropped about 11 percent nationwide from 1997 to 1999, but tobacco consumption in Iowa has only dropped about four percent," Miller said.
"We need to strengthen our efforts in Iowa to keep kids from starting, and to help others quit or reduce their smoking. Any reduction in consumption improves people's health," he said.
"There has been a general decline in cigarette sales in the U.S. due to the increase in price to fund the settlement with the States, and due to public attention created by the lawsuits, the FDA rules, and the release of tobacco company documents," he said.
"Other states have seen a much greater reduction in youth and adult smoking because they have enacted and implemented comprehensive plans," he said. "Iowa needs a comprehensive plan or we will fall further behind and become a second-class state when it comes to teen tobacco prevention."
Miller is a strong supporter of an $18.6 million comprehensive program proposed by Gov. Tom Vilsack to reduce the toll of tobacco. "Almost 5,000 Iowans die every year from tobacco-related disease, and1,000 Iowa kids under 18 become new daily smokers each month," Miller said.
"I'm encouraged by the early signs that legislative leaders and other lawmakers intend to tackle this huge health problem with a significant portion of the tobacco settlement money," he said.
The comparative tobacco consumption numbers are derived from a couple sources, Miller said. Implementation of the "Master Settlement Agreement" between the States and the tobacco industry requires frequent reporting of cigarette and other tobacco sales by the major manufacturers. Sales by those manufacturers declined about 13-14 percent from 1997 to 1999, but overall consump-tion probably declined about 11 percent because some of the majors' reduction was offset by sales in the "gray market" or by smaller manufacturers not covered by the Master Settlement Agreement.
The Iowa consumption figures were calculated based on cigarette tax receipts by the Iowa Dept. of Revenue from 1997 to 1999. The state received $94.1 million in cigarette tax receipts in 1997 and $90.4 million in 1999.
About 23 percent of Iowans smoke -- but about 37% of Iowa high school students smoke and 22 percent of high school boys use smokeless tobacco, Miller said.
"We have a long way to go to curb this epidemic," Miller said, "but this is our best opportunity ever. We can use a portion of our tobacco payments to solve the tobacco problem in Iowa, saving money for the state and improving the health of all Iowans."
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