Making the Grade: One Group’s Effort to Push the States

Doling out harsh grades to foster conversation and action brings the American Lung Association to the head of the class. Has your association done anything similar?

When it comes to associations, passion for your industry is everything. The American Lung Association recently took this to heart by issuing a failing grade to the state of New Hampshire on tobacco.

The grades come from the ALA’s State of Tobacco Control 2013 report, which is a smart way of showcasing what it thinks states are doing right—and which states need to be put under the spotlight to change their ways.

New Hampshire failed the test because it provided zero funding for tobacco prevention control, and for lowering the cigarette tax (when many others are increasing it for more revenue, and to encourage people to kick the habit in a down economy). That second faux pas earned the state a “C.”

Ways to get a good grade: Massachusetts earned a “B” for a fairly high cigarette tax (but low grades in funding for tobacco cessation and for cessation insurance coverage).

While reports cards are always either a source of pride or something to hide from mom and dad (or your local constituents), the process of grading states brings to light bigger issues that spark conversation and action in a relatable way. How high should cigarette taxes be? Should insurance cover quitting smoking? Just how much is the “right” amount to pour into anti-tobacco initiatives?

“We are faced with a deep-pocketed, ever-evolving tobacco industry that’s determined to maintain its market share at the expense of our kids and current smokers,” ALA Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Education Paul G. Billings said in a release.

It might be the competitive nature of society, but once someone is given a failing grade, it’s natural to do everything he or she can to fix it, or at least that’s the hope. And isn’t that what ALA’s mission is in the first place?

The association goes one step further and delivers the report in a graphics-heavy, illustrated website, which details what the federal government is doing (or rather, not doing—WebMD reports that the Obama administration received three “D”s and an F on the federal report card), and what actions individual states are taking to elevate tobacco control, like this card on Massachusetts.

The result? Smart, shareable content for visitors, members, and lawmakers to browse and learn from, plus real conversation starters.

Has your association ever parlayed a routine “test” into conversation for new initiatives?

(American Lung Association)

Chloe Thompson

By Chloe Thompson

Chloe Thompson is a contributing writer to Associations Now. MORE

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