MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The South Carolina Tobacco-Free Collaborative (SCTFC) is announcing the release of Ending the Epidemic: Plan for a Tobacco-Free South Carolina, 2015-2020. This plan, developed by the SCTFC in collaboration with state partners and community coalitions, outlines strategies and recommendations to help reduce tobacco's toll on the Palmetto State.
Despite some recent progress, tobacco use remains the most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in South Carolina. Each year in SC, an estimated 7,200 people die prematurely from smoking, accounting for about one in every five deaths. And according the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, between 2012 and 2015 more than 100,000 children under the age of 18 died from smoke-related illnesses.
South Carolina has made notable strides in the fight against tobacco, including a 50 cent increase in the cigarette excise tax, a reduction in youth cigarette smoking rates, and an increase in the number of smoke-free and tobacco-free environments. Work remains, however. South Carolina's cigarette excise tax is the 44th lowest in the nation and the tax on other tobacco products such as cigars and smokeless tobacco is lowest among all states that use the same method of taxation. Additionally, while youth cigarette smoking rates have declined in South Carolina, the use of other tobacco products, such as little cigars and e-cigarettes, has increased, and many of the state's workers remain unprotected from second-hand smoke exposure in the workplace.
"The CDC recommends that the state of South Carolina spend $51 million to give people the resources to be able to quit smoking, said Tracy Gooley with SCTFC. "So, they recommend $51 million, the state spends $5 million. That's not going to work."
Gooley works with a local non-profit health organization; she said everyone needs a different type of incentive to quit smoking. So, the state needs to give smokers as many different options as it can.
The tobacco industry spends $194 million yearly to promote and market their products, but SC only spends $5 million on tobacco prevention & control programs.
The Plan for a Tobacco-Free South Carolina was developed by health advocates from across the Palmetto State to address four goals:
1. Prevent children and youth from starting to use tobacco
2. Eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke
3. Promote quitting among all tobacco users
4. Strengthen statewide infrastructure and sustainability
The US Surgeon General has recommended three strategies to accomplish these goals:
1. Increase tobacco taxes: Increasing tobacco taxes will lead to lower use, especially among youth. In SC, tobacco taxes are too low to effectively discourage tobacco use by youth and continued tobacco use by adults. At $0.57 per pack, the SC cigarette tax ranks as the 44th lowest in the US. Other tobacco products (OTP), such as cigars, hookah, smokeless, and roll-your-own tobacco, are taxed at only 5 percent of the manufacturer's price, which is lowest among the states that use the same method of taxation. From FY07 to FY14, cigarette sales decreased 29 percent while tax revenue from OTP sales increased 43 percent.
2. Protect citizens from secondhand smoke: Tobacco-free and smoke-free environments protect citizens from secondhand smoke at work, school, and in public places. Only 4 in 10 SC citizens are protected with smoke-free workplaces, only 5 in 10 college students are protected on tobacco-free/smoke-free campuses, and only 8 in 10 school aged children are protected in tobacco-free school districts. (Tobacco-Free Community Snapshot)
3. Fully fund comprehensive tobacco control programs: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that SC spend $51 million per year on tobacco prevention and control. SC currently allocates only $5 million.
South Carolina can save lives and significantly reduce costs if the state adopts the recommendations of America's doctor. The Plan for a Tobacco-Free South Carolina outlines objectives, strategies, and actions to work toward ending the epidemic of tobacco use in the Palmetto State.
There are still some bars and restaurants that allow smoking. James Magoo, owner of Magoo's Sports & Spirits say when the law comes he knows he's goings to have to make accommodations.
"They appreciate the right they have right now to be allowed to smoke inside," said Magoo. "We have a significant number of customers who do smoke inside. We have very good ventilation and very good air filters systems, so it's minimal impact on those who don't smoke inside."
But Magoo said his business is successful because he allows smoking.
"I have been working on contingency plans for when this does come, and it obviously will come at some point. And I rather it come from the state across the board for everybody, than it be city by city or county by county because it ends up being unfair if you're on the county line or city line."