Because I am a non-smoker, this is not meant to preach to those who are.  I never was interested in even trying it, and was advised by an older friend when I was a young, newly married woman, to not start it, because it is expensive, and a hard habit to break.  My dad smoked and so did my husband.  I worked for years in an office that was full of smoke, because during those times the majority of people did smoke.  Stars in movies smoked, maybe because they thought it made them look more sophisticated.  It was just something I didn’t enjoy being exposed to.  Experts advise that tobacco is addictive; anyone who has stopped smoking will tell you that is true; it is a very hard thing to overcome, as with any addiction. 

Recently, the American Lung Association released a comprehensive State of Tobacco Control 2010 report that offers information regarding policies and programs that have been proven effective in confronting the country’s tobacco epidemic.  It graded the federal government, District of Columbia, and all states on their tobacco control laws and regulations that were in effect as of January 1, 2011.  

It is interesting to see how each state has worked to help smokers quit smoking.  There were only five states – Arkansas, Maine, Montana, Oklahoma and Vermont that got all passing grades.  Oklahoma barely passed with straight D’s.  Most states flunked outright.  The federal government’s top grade of B was for the Food and Drug Administrations’ putting into effect landmark legislation on curbing tobacco marketing and sales to kids, to end misleading cigarette labels and require larger health warnings on smokeless tobacco products.  Many states enacted cigarette taxes for new revenues to balance budgets in hard times, but they did not invest in programs to help smokers quit and keep kids from starting.  Texas got F’s for the amount it spends on anti-smoking campaigns, F for smoke free air, and F for not including cessation programs in Medicaid.  You can check how your state was graded by going to State of Tobacco Control 2010, American Lung Association. 

Each year, 443,000 people die from tobacco-related illnesses and secondhand smoke exposure.  Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in America.  It also costs the economy more than $193 billion in healthcare costs and lost productivity. 

If you smoke, make your own list of Pros and Cons.  I think you will find it much harder to list more good against the bad that comes from smoking.  In reading the lists of many, the Pros include: bonding with other smokers and momentary gratification.  Cons mentioned were:  after-smell it leaves on clothes, furniture, car, house; breathing problems, cough; heartburn, shortness of breath, wasted time outside in bad weather, and expense. 

People who smoke think that they are being unfairly punished by having to smoke only in areas designated for them; persons who don’t smoke have felt for years that they were exposed to unwanted smoke, so there are probably hard feelings either way about the subject.  It is something to consider, though, especially for those who have small children, who shouldn’t have to breathe smoke in the home or car.  

The bottom line is: what we do with our health is our responsibility.  If a state gets a failing grade for not helping persons cease doing things that are harmful to their health, it’s is not their fault.  It’s our own.  We risk hurting ourselves in many ways, so place the blame where it belongs – on each individual who chooses to ignore the warning signs.  The way for each one of us to get an A is to choose ways of living  that will keep us both safe and healthy.