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I was saddened to learn that Alaska ranked 37 among states and received a failing grade in a report released this week by the National Women's Law Center and Oregon Health and Science University that evaluates states' progress in meeting key national goals to reduce smoking among women and girls. Alaska must focus attention on this silent, but preventable, killer that takes over 178,000 women's lives each year.
As found in "Women and Smoking: A National and State-by-State Report Card," smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer and a primary risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Smoking also accounts for about 15 percent of all Medicaid costs. If adult smoking rates were reduced by just 5 percent, the annual cost savings to states would translate to about $110 million.
Yet "Women and Smoking" shows that nearly all states, and the nation as a whole, have not adopted strong policies to help women quit or prevent them from smoking. There are cost-effective policies that can save many lives: cessation programs that have been proven effective, school prevention programs, bans on indoor smoking and higher cigarette taxes should be implemented. As citizens we have a responsibility to ourselves and to our youth to strengthen Alaska's policies this year.
This is one report card that we cannot afford to fail on.