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American Lung Association: Missouri's smoking policies fail to protect

(Via Flickr/meddygarnet)

A new report by the American Lung Association puts Missouri near the bottom of the list when it comes to state tobacco control policies.

The report grades states according to their spending on tobacco prevention and control programs, smoke-free air laws, cigarette taxes, and coverage of programs to help smokers quit.

Missouri was one of six states to receive an “F” grade in all four categories.

Missouri Foundation for Health program director for community health and prevention, Matthew Kuhlenbeck, says on the plus side, Missouri was one of only three states to expand its quit-smoking coverage to include all Medicaid enrollees.

“So it covers, for Medicaid participants, nicotine replacement gum, patches, lozenges, as well as a couple pharmaceuticals: what's commonly referred to as Chantix and Zyban,” Kuhlenbeck said.

The state Medicaid plan now also covers individual counseling for smokers wanting to quit.

And not reflected in the report, Kuhlenbeck says, are Missouri's local anti-smoking initiatives.

“At the local level, when we look at our municipalities or even within our counties, there's been a lot of organizations and groups who have been trying to increase access to services, create smoke-free environments, as well as work with their local employers and other groups to expand coverage to cessation services,” Kuhlenbeck said.

Kuhlenbeck adds that the challenge is to have those local efforts trickle up into state-wide policies.

Missouri has the lowest state cigarette tax in the nation, at 17 cents a pack - the national average is $1.46.

On average, about 9,500 Missourians die from smoking-related illnesses each year.