Research shows that tackling tobacco use requires a four-pronged approach: Tax it. Restrict it. Prevent it. Help people quit it.
Pennsylvania and New Jersey are strong on the taxation piece, but both states could do more on the other prongs, according to a new report by the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network.
"On tobacco control, I'd say we have a mixed bag. There is certainly room for improvement," said Diane Phillips, who directs the network's advocacy and lobbying efforts in the Keystone State.
Brian Shott, her counterpart in the Garden State, noted that last month, New Jersey became only the third state in the nation to raise to 21 the age at which smoking materials can be bought. Yet when it comes to funding tobacco prevention and cessation programs, "we are significantly lagging behind," he said.
The annual report, now in its 15th year, assesses all 50 states' anti-cancer laws and policies, including funding for cancer screening and age restrictions on indoor tanning. But much of the report is devoted to tobacco, because smoking is the nation's number one cause of preventable death and disability. In Pennsylvania, for example, tobacco use costs the state $6.38 billion in health-care expenses, and is linked to 28 percent of cancer deaths, the advocacy group Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids estimates.
Here's how the Cancer Action Network says Pennsylvania and New Jersey measure up on comprehensive tobacco control: