State Holds First Tobacco Cessation Summit
COLUMBIA - Public health advocates, educators, and smoking opponents gathered in Columbia Thursday for the state's first summit to examine the issues of stopping smoking. The summit was hosted by the Missouri Public Health Association, University of Missouri Health affairs, and the Tobacco Free Missouri Coalition. The event's main goal was to develop a two-year, statewide anti-smoking initiative to reduce Missouri's smoking rate.
Missouri had a 2008 smoking rate of about 24.9 percent. Missouri ranks fourth highest in U.S. for smokers. Missouri cigarette tax is 17 cent a pack, making it one of the lowest nationwide. Anti-smoking advocates say smoking is one of the most expensive habits a person can have. Those advocates say smokling affects everyone, even if they don't smoke. They say insurance premiums can go up because of the risk factors smokers have. The Missouri Department of Health And Senior Services says more than 10,000 Missourians die from tobacco-related illnesses each year.
Summit spokesperson Linda Cooperstock said anti-smoking programs need more resources. According to Cooperstock, the state gets $25 million a year for anti smoking programs, but only $2 million actually went to those programs, with the state budget taking the rest. Democratic State Representative Chris Kelly and Republican State Senator Kurt Shaeffer both attended the meeting in support of the initiative.