Georgia receives poor grades for tobacco prevention efforts

cigarette taxesRecently, the American Lung Association gave the state of Georgia low marks on tobacco control across several categories. According the association, Georgia failed to decrease usage across the state, despite efforts to do so.

The State of Tobacco Control Report tracks prevention efforts and grades states across five categories: tobacco control and prevention spending, tobacco taxes, smokefree air, and cessation coverage.

“Tobacco use is a serious addiction, and the fact that 17.9 percent of Georgia residents are current smokers highlights how much work remains to be done in our communities to prevent and reduce tobacco use,” said American Lung Association Southeast Region Executive Vice President Martha Bogdan told Ledger-Enquirer.

Georgia’s tobacco grades are disproportionate to that of the majority of American states. Overall, smoking in the United States has reached historic lows. The ALA report, which includes statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that smoking among American adults has decreased from 20.9% to 15.5%. Still, even with promising numbers, the result is still grim: smoking remains leading cause of preventable death in the country, according to the CDC.

In the Smoke-Free Air category, which focuses on improvements and restrictions of smoking in public areas, Georgia received a C. Cessation coverage deals with how a state handles medical responsibilities when it comes to helping the population handle smoking habits. Currently, Georgia’s Medicaid program does not cover smoking cessation therapies or drugs proven to reduce habitual smoking, like Chantix. Barriers to treatment, co-pay, and high waiting times all prevent smokers from receiving the help they need in Georgia.

Georgia’s tobacco taxes are also much higher than other states, giving it a low grade in that segment, too. The premise is simple: the higher the taxes, the less likely people are to purchase. At 37 cents per pack, Georgia has the third lowest tobacco taxes in the country, right behind Missouri and Virginia.

Environment Affects Smoking Habits

Senior citizens suffer the aftermath of years of smoking, as they become victim to diseases like lung cancer. Currently, 17 out of 100 adults aged 45-64 smoke regularly. It’s especially important that seniors quit smoking, despite difficulties with age. These physical environments––from the senior citizen homes catering to those suffering from addiction diseases, to college campuses––ultimately affect addictive decision-making.

Companies like Ozarch (a design firm that curates senior living spaces) create environments that encourage limitation. Because an environment can shift habits and wellness perception, it’s critical for architecture to reflect that, creating a foundation for positive habits.

For example, studies have shown that green space and open lawns have multiple benefits on an individual’s health: by incorporating the best mental health trends in design, businesses can better aid mental health, pinching addictive behaviors at the source.

Tobacco Advertising

American who are less educated, are considered racial minorities, or are poor are more likely to smoke. Tobacco companies capitalize on this knowledge by advertising more heavily towards those groups. Children and young adults have historically been targeted by tobacco groups, despite government efforts to prevent this.

In December, a report called “Broken Promises to Our Children: A State-by-State Look at the 1998 Tobacco Settlement 19 Years Later” found that tobacco companies have found manipulative ways to target youth, and are doing so in higher volumes than ever before. The report especially targets Georgia for the lack of preventative efforts, and ranks the state 46th in protecting children against tobacco.

While tobacco companies have agreed to stop targeting youth through obvious efforts (like the Joe the Camel cartoon image), they’ve put more money into advertising in magazines and movies that are technically for adults, but have high engagement levels among children. Glamour magazine is an example of this: youth readers comprise 14.6% of the magazine’s overall audience.


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