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Editorial: A bad grade on tobacco use

Ouch. Thatís one reaction to an American Lung Association report giving North Carolina straight Fs on its efforts to reduce tobacco use among adults and teenagers.
Obviously, the state could and should do more in this area. As recent stories and letters to the editor in the Salisbury Post have pointed out, non-smokers are still battling to clear the air around government buildings, parks and some private work sites. Tobacco use remains the primary cause of preventable death in North Carolina, according to the state health director.
But straight Fs? After the state approved a smoking ban in bars and restaurants last year and, prior to that, banned tobacco use on the premises of acute-care hospitals? Those arenít small steps.
Itís true that the state continues to have one of the lowest tobacco taxes in the nation, at 45 cents a pack. Health experts say raising the tax would help discourage new smokers, especially young ones, while providing another incentive for habitual smokers to at least cut down. And as North Carolina wrestles with budget shortfalls, officials in recent years have diverted some tobacco-settlement money ó roughly $10 million ó from health and wellness programs into other areas. The legislature also has cut funding for programs to curb tobacco use, along with other health expenditures.
Still, given the stateís significant gains in shifting emphasis from tobacco production to tobacco prevention, its efforts arenít failing. They just need continued support and improvement.

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