Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Editorial: The Public's Health Demands a Fix for Missouri Tobacco Loophole

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Editorial: The Public's Health Demands a Fix for Missouri Tobacco Loophole

Article excerpt

Cigarettes increasingly are a habit for the poor and working poor in rural and blue-collar urban areas. The smoking rate is declining fastest in affluent counties across the country.

Those are some conclusions in an analysis released Monday by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. The group studied federal survey data on smoking from 1996 to 2012.

The conclusions come as no surprise. But the study offers some county-by-county data that might provide a way to help more people quit. Anti-smoking and cessation campaigns should be targeted to areas where they can be most effective.

Smoking rates have long been persistently high among poorer and less-educated populations. In Missouri, the trend is encouraged by legislators' resistance to raising cigarette taxes. In fact, cheap cigarettes are about the only thing the Legislature has given the poor and working poor in recent years.

Missouri voters have failed to support measures to raise the state's tobacco tax at 17 cents a pack the lowest in the nation and repeated attempts to raise it legislatively have failed, and failed miserably.

One of the best ways to reduce smoking is to raise the price of cigarettes. The fact that smokes are cheap in the Show-Me State has resulted in Missouri having the fifth-highest smoking rate in the nation. Roughly one in four Missourians over age 18 smokes tobacco.

The state ranks 50th worst in the country for workplace exposure to secondhand smoke. The state's lack of comprehensive smoke-free laws is responsible, according to a study by the National Institutes for Health. Their study shows that 12 percent of indoor employees in Missouri are exposed to secondhand smoke, compared to 7.3 percent across the country.

Missouri lawmakers also fail the people who live in the state by not spending much money on tobacco prevention and smoking cessation programs. …

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