The State of Tobacco Control report was not very kind to South Dakota. Failing grades in many categories dominate the survey put forth by the American Lung Association.

At the basis of the study released Wednesday, Pat McKone of the South Dakota Chapter of the American Lung Association says the state is underfunding prevention programs by half the recommended amount and raising the tobacco tax would be a tremendous first step.

“Tobacco is still the number one killer of Americans. I really think we have a moral obligation to see that our prevention programs for tobacco are also fully funded. (That means) raise that tobacco tax, then dedicate some of those dollars to prevention and that would be a huge leap forward in improving these grades.”

Another area of concern involves the lack of programs available with minimal barriers to help people quit smoking. McKone states that a good number of smokers are looking for ways to kick the addiction.

“All those people that want to quit at any given time, half of tobacco users, are actively looking to quit. (We should eliminate) any hurdles (in front of them) meaning co-pays or limitations on the treatment that they can obtain.”

The report also shows that 22 percent of South Dakota’s population smokes which is higher than the national average of 16.4 percent.

McKone is also concerned about the rate of tobacco users of both conventional and e-cigarettes in South Dakota high schools which is approximately 30 percent. Raising the legal age of smoking to 21 years old would be a good start to reducing that number.

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