For the first time, a new, interactive map [no longer active] from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation gives policy-makers and advocates a nationwide picture of continuing state efforts on key tobacco control policies. The interactive map is a wealth of information on policies related to tobacco control, cigarette taxes and prevention spending, and also features key data points about mortality, consumer behavior and public health.

Smoking tobacco is damaging to nearly every organ in the body, and is a major contributor to cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke, and respiratory diseases. Smoking effects the smoker and also those exposed to second hand smoke. It also can affect fetal health when pregnant women smoke during pregnancy. Beginning in the late 1990s, states began to enact tobacco control measures in workplaces, restaurants and bars. As the deleterious health effects of second hand smoking was documented in exhaustive detail by medical and public health experts, political support grew for measures to protect the health of employees.

Additionally, the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, signed in 1998 between the four largest tobacco companies and the Attorneys General of 46 states, provided significant funding for tobacco prevention and control. The shift in state-level policies over the past few years -- shown in a timeline slider bar on the map -- has been dramatic.  However, public health experts both nationally as well as in Connecticut still have not met their goal of requiring smoke-free restaurants, bars and workplaces.  According to the map, RWJF claims 57.2% of the population is covered by state and local laws requiring smoke-free workplaces, but Connecticut does not yet have such a law.  Connecticut does have the second-highest cigarette tax in the nation -- a tax of $3.00 per pack was enacted as of October 2009, up from $2.00 previously -- but the average national cigarette tax rate is still less than half that. In addition to providing an excellent visualization and introduction to tobacco prevention policy for the general public, the RWJF map will be of interest to local and state policy makers.  

For example, even though 4,700 Connecticut adults are dying each year from smoking, young persons are still starting to smoke at alarming rates.  Over 21% of Connecticut high school students smoke.  At current rates, RWJF estimates that 76,000 Connecticut residents who are currently children will die from smoking -- a scary figure. The inadequacy of prevention funding is also indicated on one of the pop-ups: CDC recommends that Connecticut spends $44 million per year on prevention programs, but the state only spent $7.2 million in FY2010 - only 16% of the recommended amount (Connecticut ranks 28th among states in this measure). Given the amount of mortality every year and the lack of effective amounts of funding, public health officials have called for increased attention to the issue. 

RWJF's map data is provided courtesy of Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Author: Mark Abraham, Executive Director, DataHaven, 3/11/10