Illinois tobacco control efforts fail in three of four areas

Illinois tobacco control efforts fail in three of four areas


SPRINGFIELD—In the wake of more than a decade of faltering public policy, Illinois’ state tobacco control efforts received grades of three Fs and one B in the first annual American Lung Association State of Tobacco Control 2002 report. The report also named Illinois as number two among the “five most disappointing Tobacco Prevention Program Cuts,” with a 74 percent decrease in funding. The national report card analyzes state tobacco control laws in four key areas—youth access to tobacco, smokefree air, tobacco program funding, and cigarette excise taxes.

“This report should be a wake-up call to the legislature about the true state of affairs in Illinois,” said Kathy Drea, American Lung Association of Illinois. “The legislature has thwarted every intensive effort to spend settlement funds where they were intended—on tobacco prevention and control programs—and our clean indoor air law is weak, The time is now to make the tough decisions on tobacco control that will save lives. We need the political commitment to get the job done.”

Illinois scored grades of “F” in tobacco prevention and control spending, smokefree air and youth access to tobacco products, while the cigarette tax level rated a grade of “B”. Despite exhaustive efforts in 2002, the funding for a statewide comprehensive tobacco education program received a 74 percent funding cut, and an initiative to allow local units of government to pass local clean indoor air laws failed.

In Illinois, 22.3 percent of adults and 35.7 percent of high school students smoke. Smoking-related diseases claim an estimated 19,000 Illinois lives each year, including those affected indirectly, such as babies born prematurely due to prenatal maternal smoking and some of the victims of “secondhand” exposure to tobacco’s carcinogens. Tobacco use is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in Illinois; economic costs due to smoking exceed $1 billion.

The American Lung Association State of Tobacco Control 2002 report analyzes individual states’ actions four years after the 1998 Master Settlement (MSA), through which the tobacco industry committed to paying 48 states approximately $206 billion over 25 years in recovery of the states’ tobacco-related health care costs. Illinois received an “F” in funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs due to decreased budgets. The state legislature allocated $46 million of Illinois’ settlement funds for fiscal year 2002 to implement a statewide Comprehensive Tobacco program and then gutted the programs in fiscal year 2003. Although $12 million of an estimated $300 million payment was budgeted for tobacco prevention and control programs in Illinois during the current fiscal year, two months into the program year, grantees received word that the tobacco settlement recovery fund had been spent, and that payments for fiscal year 2003 would be delayed, forcing many grantees to suspend or eliminate programs altogether.

“Illinois is far below the bar set to protect public health from the ongoing tobacco epidemic in Amenca,” Kathy Drea said. “The tobacco settlement funds have been used to cover budget shortfalls, thus denying the state of a sound investment in our citizens’ health. We are eager to work with Gov. Rod Blagojevich, his new administration, and the 93rd General Assembly to get tobacco control programs back on track in Illinois.”

The public can support the necessary changes in state laws and policies to protect people’s lungs by logging on to the American Lung Association of Illinois’ Web site at and sending a personalized letter to Governor Blagojevich demanding tough measures to combat tobacco use and addiction.

Illinois’ cigarette tax efforts fared best—with a “B” grade. The new $40 cigarette tax that took effect July 1, 2002, was the result of an intense lobbying campaign. Illinois currently ranks as the 16th highest state for cigarette tax rates, still leaving room for improvement.

Illinois received an “F” for laws that restrict youth access to tobacco products. Those efforts fall short by allowing minors access to products without the intervention of a clerk; and by not requiring photo ID of customers who appear to be under 21 years of age. Illnois also lacks required licensure of tobacco vendors—leaving no course of action to revoke the license should a vendor continue to illegally sell tobacco to minors.

Illinois also received an “F” for clean indoor air laws. The Illinois Clean Indoor Air Act is considered weak, partially due to its lack of clarity on enforcement. It also does not provide for 100 percent smokefree workplaces, restaurants and other public places. The Act also contains pre-emption, which prohibits local units of government from passing stronger local clean indoor air laws.

“F” is the overwhelming grade received by many states in the national report of tobacco control efforts. Forty-three states and the District of Columbia received grades of “F” in smokefree air laws; 32 states and the District of Columbia received grades of “F” in tobacco program funding; 17 states received grades of “F” in cigarette taxes; and 28 received grades of “F” in laws limiting youth access to tobacco. Only four states—California, Maine, New York and Rhode Island—scored the highest achievement of two “A” grades.

The American Lung Association of Illinois vows to continue working for clean indoor air for everyone, and will work to reverse the pre-emption in the Illinois Clean Indoor Air Act to allow all local municipalities to pass local clear indoor air laws. According to the Lung Association, making smoking as difficult, expensive and inconvenient as possible reduces the number of youngsters who try smoking cigarettes. Therefore, the Lung Association will continue to lobby for cigarette tax increases, to ban self-service tobacco displays and to further restrict youth access to tobacco products. Increased funding of statewide comprehensive tobacco control funding as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control will also continue to be a key issue for the American Lung Association of Illinois.

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!