Oregon Must Work Harder to Prevent Tobacco-Caused Disease and Death

(January 19, 2012)

Contact: Colleen Hermann-Franzen

Oregon Must Work Harder to Prevent Tobacco-Caused Disease and Death

Portland, OR—Oregon took steps forward in some areas, but fell short in others to protect children and curb tobacco-related disease in 2011 according to the American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control 2012 report.

The Lung Association’s annual report card on tobacco control monitors progress on key tobacco control policies at the federal and state levels and assigns grades to assess whether laws are protecting citizens from the terrible health burden caused by tobacco use.

Oregon received mixed grades on their report card. They received an “A” for smokefree air, a “D” for cigarette tax, an “F” for tobacco prevention and control spending, and a “C” for cessation coverage. Oregon joins many other states that fell short in its responsibility to enact much-needed laws and policies that save lives and reduce tobacco-related disease.  

“If Oregon pursues smart strategies identified in the report for better protecting its citizens from tobacco’s dangers, it will save countless lives,” said Renée Klein, President and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mountain Pacific.

This past year, in the campaign to increase Oregon’s tobacco tax, the Lung Association was able to broaden support for this initiative, building coalition allies within the health, human services and education sectors. While the legislation did not make it out of the committee, this will remain a perennial issue for the Lung Association, as increasing the price of tobacco is a proven strategy to help prevent youth from starting to smoke.

Also in the 2011 session, legislation was introduced to close the smoke shop loophole in the Indoor Clean Air Act that has led to the proliferation of hookah lounges across Oregon. This legislation provided the opportunity to increase awareness of the problem of hookah tobacco and other issues related to the loophole for smoke shops. Unfortunately, the bill was amended to the point where the Lung Association and other public health partners opposed the legislation. The amended bill passes and was signed into law on July 1. The Lung Association will continue to work to both educate the public about dangers of hookah tobacco, and stop the spread of smoking lounges across Oregon.

In the coming years, the American Lung Association in Oregon will continue to advocate for a more fully funded Oregon Tobacco Prevention & Education Program and to increase the state cigarette tax, to help prevent youth from beginning to use tobacco. The Lung Association will also work to stay on top of the latest tobacco products, including hookah tobacco and electronic cigarettes.

Although youth and adult smoking rates declined slowly over the past decade, the decline has been inconsistent. Tobacco use continues to reap a devastating toll. The adult smoking rate in Oregon stands at 15.1 percent. Tobacco causes an estimated 4,981 deaths in Oregon annually and costs the state’s economy almost $2.2 billion in healthcare costs and lost productivity.

In its tenth annual State of Tobacco Control report, the Lung Association graded all 50 states and the District of Columbia on four proven policies to save lives and cut healthcare costs. These are tobacco prevention and control program funding; smokefree air laws; cigarette tax rates; and coverage of cessation treatments and services, to help smokers quit.

Overall, six states received all “F’s.” They were Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. Only four states, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine and Oklahoma, received all passing grades. No state received straight “A’s.”

Many states regressed in 2011. No state passed a strong smokefree air law, and Nevada weakened its existing law. Washington virtually eliminated a tobacco prevention and quit-smoking program that was previously a national model.  For the first year in recent memory, no state increased its tobacco tax significantly, and 13 states and the District of Columbia significantly cut or completely eliminated already meager funding of tobacco control and prevention programs.

“The enormity of the challenge facing us requires combined resources at both the state and federal levels,” said Renée Klein, President and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mountain Pacific. “Failure isn’t an option, because our end goal is removing tobacco’s chokehold on America’s health, and that’s a life-and-death matter.”


About the American Lung Association in Oregon
The American Lung Association in Oregon is a non-profit, voluntary public health organization, working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease in Oregon. Our programs focus on the areas of asthma, clean air, tobacco prevention and lung disease.

For more information about the American Lung Association in Oregon or to support the work it does, call (503) 924-4094 or visit: www.lungoregon.org.