CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — North Carolina received failing grades across the board in the American Lung Association’s newly released ‘State of Tobacco Control’ report. 

The report grades states on tobacco prevention and cessation funding, smoke-free air restrictions, tobacco taxes, access to cessation services, and flavored tobacco products. North Carolina received “F” grades in all those categories.

Because of this, the ALA is asking state legislators for more state tobacco controls, like increased taxes and state-funded programs. But that’s easier said than done when North Carolina is still the country’s leading tobacco producer.

According to the ALA, North Carolina brings in $458,600,000 in tobacco-related revenue. However, the group says they only spend $13,399,600 of state funds on tobacco control programs. The ALA recommends state legislators increase that number to $21 million.

Although the Center for Disease Control says smoking has declined 8.4 percent since 2005, cigarettes are still the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States. 

“Despite North Carolina receiving over 450 million in tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, the state only funds tobacco control efforts at less than 16 percent of the level recommended by the CDC,” said American Lung Association Director of Advocacy Danna Thompson. 

Additionally, the state that produces the most tobacco has the fourth lowest tax rate. Included in their list of recommendations, the ALA is asking state lawmakers to increase the tobacco tax to $1.49 from the current $0.45 per pack of cigarettes.

“We need to do more to protect the citizens of North Carolina, rather than think about the big industry dollar,” said Thompson. “Funding control programs can and does counter the marketing that the tobacco industry deploys each year, which nationally is around $7.8 billion.”

Queen City News also spoke to Graham Boyd about the report. Boyd is the Executive Vice President of the North Carolina Tobacco Growers Association. 

He believes adults should be free to make personal choices regarding tobacco use without extra taxes and governmental controls. He also said that if the state makes it harder for people to get their hands on tobacco products, people will just get them from illicit sources, leading to an even greater risk.