State of Tobacco Control: Commit to Eliminate Death and Disease from Tobacco

(January 22, 2014)

America needs to renew its commitment to eliminate tobacco-caused illness and death. That’s the key message of the American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control 2014 report released today. Less than a week after the new Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health which warns 5.6 million of today’s youth will die from tobacco use unless swift action is taken, the Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control 2014, issues an urgent call to action to policymakers across the country to reverse their present course and commit to eliminating tobacco-caused death and disease.  

“Not one state in our region has earned a report card on tobacco control that any parent will be proudly hanging on their refrigerator,” said Jeff Seyler, President & CEO, American Lung Association of the Northeast. “States are failing to invest in vital resources that help keep kids from starting to smoke and provide smokers with the tools they so desperately need to quit. Meanwhile, Big Tobacco continues to rob residents of their health and employ clever tactics to lure new youth smokers.”

The Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control 2014, our 12th annual report, tracks yearly progress on key tobacco control policies at the federal and state level, assigning grades based on whether laws protect Americans from the enormous toll tobacco use takes on lives and the economy. Tobacco-related diseases, such as lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), other cancers, heart disease and stroke kill almost half a million Americans each year. The 2014 Surgeon General’s report asks Americans to join the American Lung Association in renewing their commitment to fighting tobacco use and to help make tobacco history.  

“With Friday’s release of the 50th anniversary Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health, Acting U.S. Surgeon General Rear Admiral (RADM) Boris D. Lushniak, M.D., M.P.H, declared "enough is enough" and that we must do more if we are going to protect Americans from the burden of tobacco use,” explained Seyler. “Smoking is responsible for almost 500,000 deaths in this country annually and our state leaders must act now so that we may prevent more Americans from getting sick and dying from tobacco-related disease. The battle against the tobacco epidemic is not over.”

State Governments Once Again Miss Opportunities in 2013

State of Tobacco Control 2014 CT ME MA NH NY RI VT
Tobacco Prevention F D F F F F D
Smokefree Air C A A D A A A
Cigarette Tax A C A C A A B
Cessation F D D D F D C

Overall, 2013 was another missed opportunity for states to put in place proven policies to reduce tobacco use and save lives, including smokefree workplace laws, higher tobacco taxes and tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs.

In the Northeast, many of our states received very good grades for smokefree air, with five states receiving ‘A’s.  Four states also received ‘A’ grades for having high cigarette taxes. In fact, effective in August, Massachusetts raised their cigarette excise tax from $2.51 to $3.51 per pack, making it the second highest tax in the country behind only New York.  

Across our region, states continued to fail in efforts to prevent kids from starting to smoke and helping smokers quit.  No states in our region received above a ‘D’ grade for Tobacco Prevention and Control Program Funding. Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York all cut funding to these programs in 2013.

Many people still lack access to all the treatments that have been proven to help smokers quit. Vermont received the highest grade in the region for Cessation, but is still failing to adequately cover all state residents in their quit attempts and still underfunds the state’s QuitLine. 

Federal Government Takes One Step Forward, Two Steps Back in 2013

The federal government took a few steps forward in 2013 after a truly dismal performance in last year’s report.  The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued its report finding that menthol cigarettes are more likely to hook new youth users, and make it harder for smokers to quit.  However, the Obama Administration failed to release a proposed rule that would give FDA authority over all tobacco products and Congress failed to advance legislation to increase the federal cigarette tax, or tax all tobacco products at a rate equivalent to the cigarette tax rate.  The failure of the Administration to give FDA basic authority over all tobacco products has led to the proliferation of unregulated products like little cigars and e-cigarettes.

The failure of the federal and state governments to implement proven policies resulted in 20 million preventable deaths from tobacco use from 1964-2014, including 2.5 million from secondhand smoke.  The 2014 Surgeon General’s report found that almost half a million lives are unnecessarily lost each year due to tobacco, as well as up to $333 billion in healthcare costs and lost productivity. 

On a more positive note, the second round of the CDC’s highly successful “Tips from Former Smokers” media campaign once again encouraged millions of smokers to seek help quitting. 

Tobacco Industry Stays One Step Ahead

State of Tobacco Control 2014 finds that the tobacco industry continued its ruthless pursuit of addicting new, young users, and keeping current users from quitting in 2013.  This included efforts at the federal and state levels to exempt their products from meaningful public health protections.

The three largest cigarette manufacturers—Altria, Reynolds American, and Lorillard—continued their aggressive expansion into other tobacco products in 2013, including smokeless tobacco, cigars and now e-cigarettes. As cigarette use continues to gradually decline, these companies continue to maintain their power over America’s youth and reap profits from smokeless tobacco, cigars and now e-cigarettes.

“We urge everyone to join with the American Lung Association in renewing their commitment to preventing another 50 years of tobacco-caused death and disease,” continued Seyler.