Rhode Island Gets F on Tobacco Control Report Card

Thursday, January 23, 2014


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Rhode Island is failing to adequately fund programs that help smokers quit and keep kids from starting to smoke, according to the American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control 2014 report released on Wednesday.

In 2013, Rhode Island failed to allot more dollars to the RI Department of Health’s severely underfunded Tobacco Control Program. The latest Surgeon General’s report warns 5.6 million of today’s youth will die from tobacco use unless swift action is taken.

“Rhode Island’s report card on tobacco control is not one any parent will be proudly hanging on their refrigerator,” said Karen Daigle, M.D., Leadership Board Chair for the American Lung Association in Rhode Island. “Rhode Island is failing to invest in vital resources that help keep kids from starting to smoke and provide smokers with the tools they so desperately need to quit. Meanwhile, Big Tobacco continues to rob Rhode Island residents of their health and employ clever tactics to lure new youth smokers.”

The failure of the federal and state governments to implement proven policies resulted in 20 million preventable deaths from tobacco use from 1964-2014, including 2.5 million from secondhand smoke. The 2014 Surgeon General’s report found that almost half a million lives are unnecessarily lost each year due to tobacco, as well as $280 billion in healthcare costs and lost productivity.

Rhode Island's Grades

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The Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control 2014, its 12th annual report, tracks yearly progress on key tobacco control policies at the federal and state level, assigning grades based on whether laws are adequately protecting citizens from the enormous toll tobacco use takes on lives and the economy. Tobacco-related diseases, such as lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), other cancers, heart disease and stroke kill almost half a million Americans each year.

“With Friday’s release of the 50th anniversary Surgeon General’s report on Smoking and Health, Acting U.S. Surgeon General Rear Admiral (RADM) Boris D. Lushniak, M.D., M.P.H declared "enough is enough" and that we must do more if we are going to protect Americans from the burden of tobacco use,” said Jeff Seyler, President & CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast. “Smoking is responsible for almost 500,000 deaths in this country annually and our state leaders must act now so that we may prevent more Americans from getting sick and dying from tobacco-related disease. The battle against the tobacco epidemic is not over.”

Tobacco causes an estimated 1,696 deaths in Rhode Island annually and costs the state’s economy $870 million in healthcare costs and lost productivity, a tremendous burden that our state can ill afford.

Priorities that must be addressed to improve Rhode Island’s State of Tobacco Control© grades in 2014 include:

  • increasing funding to state tobacco prevention and cessation programs,
  • raising the cigarette tax by at least 90 cents,
  • passing legislation that would prohibit smoking in vehicles where children are present,
  • and increasing the availability of smokefree environments.

“Leaders in Rhode Island must step up to provide more smokers with the support they need to quit and adequately fund prevention programs that help keep our kids off tobacco,” continued Dr. Daigle.

Meanwhile, the tobacco industry continued its ruthless pursuit of addicting new users and keeping current users from quitting in 2013. This included efforts at the federal and state levels to exempt their products from meaningful public health protections.

The three largest cigarette manufacturers—Altria, Reynolds American, and Lorillard—continued their aggressive expansion into other tobacco products in 2013. As cigarette use continues to gradually decline, these companies continue to maintain their power over America’s youth and reap profits from smokeless tobacco, cigars and now e-cigarettes.

“We urge everyone in Rhode Island to join with the American Lung Association in renewing their commitment to preventing another 50 years of tobacco-caused death and disease,” continued Seyler.


Related Slideshow: Black Market Cigarettes in New England

Scholars at Michigan's Mackinac Center for Public Policy have analyzed tobacco sales data to estimate smuggling rates for each state.

The report uses 2011 data and finds that smuggling rates generally rise in states after they adopt large cigarette tax increases. Smuggling rates have dropped in some states, however, often where neighboring states have higher cigarette tax rates.

This means that people are buying cigarettes in lower-taxed states legally, and bringing them into nearby higher-taxed states to sell at a lower price with higher profits.

See which New England states have the highest percentage of smuggled cigarettes in the slides below:

Source: Mackinac Center for Public Policy; Tax Foundation.

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6. New Hampshire

National Rank (1 is Most): 47

2011 Consumption Smuggled*: -26.8%

2006 Consumption Smuggled*:-29.7%

2011 Cigarette Tax Rate (Per Pack): $1.68


*Positive is inflow (smuggled in), Negative is outflow (smuggled out)

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5. Vermont

National Rank (1 is Most): 40

2011 Consumption Smuggled*: -16.9%

2006 Consumption Smuggled*: 4.5%

2011 Cigarette Tax Rate (Per Pack): $2.24


*Positive is inflow (smuggled in), Negative is outflow (smuggled out)

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4. Maine

National Rank (1 is Most): 23

2011 Consumption Smuggled*: 13.7%

2006 Consumption Smuggled*: 16.6%

2011 Cigarette Tax Rate (Per Pack): $2.00


*Positive is inflow (smuggled in), Negative is outflow (smuggled out)

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3. Massachusetts

National Rank (1 is Most): 19

2011 Consumption Smuggled*: 18.1%

2006 Consumption Smuggled*: 17.5%

2011 Cigarette Tax Rate (Per Pack): $2.51


*Positive is inflow (smuggled in), Negative is outflow (smuggled out)

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2. Connecticut

Overall Rank (1 is Most): 14

2011 Consumption Smuggled*: 22.2%

2006 Consumption Smuggled*: 12.3%

2011 Cigarette Tax Rate (Per Pack): $3.00


*Positive is inflow (smuggled in), Negative is outflow (smuggled out)

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1. Rhode Island

Overall Rank (1 is Most): 5

2011 Consumption Smuggled*: 39.8%

2006 Consumption Smuggled*: 43.2%

2011 Cigarette Tax Rate (Per Pack): $3.46


*Positive is inflow (smuggled in), Negative is outflow (smuggled out)


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