While Smoking Rates Decline Nationwide, Arkansas Lags Behind in Efforts to Reduce Tobacco Use, Save Lives, New American Lung Association Report Finds
2018 'State of Tobacco Control' report finds Arkansas lawmakers can do more to reduce tobacco use by strengthening the comprehensive statewide smokefree air law and maintaining funding for the tobacco prevention and control program
(January 24, 2018) - LITTLE ROCK, Ark.
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The American Lung Association's 2018 "State of Tobacco Control" shows Arkansas could have done more to save lives by implementing proven tobacco policies. The 16th annual report grades states and the federal government on policies to prevent and reduce tobacco use, and finds that Arkansas lags significantly behind the nation to reduce and prevent tobacco use, and state policymakers must do more to prevent the death and disease associated with tobacco use and save lives.
"Nationwide, smoking rates have continued to decline to historically low levels, yet tobacco use remains the nation's leading cause of preventable death and disease killing over 480,000 Americans each year," said American Lung Association Southeast Region Executive Vice President Martha Bogdan. "Tobacco use is a serious addiction, and the fact that 23.6 percent of Arkansas residents are current smokers highlights how much work remains to be done in our communities to prevent and reduce tobacco use."
This year's "State of Tobacco Control" finds Governor Asa Hutchinson and the state legislature are failing to enact proven policies that will reduce tobacco use and save lives:
- Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade [F]
- Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws - Grade [C]
- Level of State Tobacco Taxes - Grade [F]
- Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco - Grade [F]
- Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade [F]
The American Lung Association in Arkansas calls on Governor Asa Hutchinson and other Arkansas policymakers to act on a comprehensive statewide smokefree air law and maintain funding for the tobacco prevention and control program.
Sadly, the report also details that, as a result of decades of targeted marketing by the tobacco industry, too many Americans haven't seen the benefits of reduced smoking rates, and Arkansas and the federal government could do more to ensure all Americans benefit from tobacco control efforts. According to the American Lung Association,
- If Arkansas would increase funding for tobacco control programs, they would have a powerful opportunity to target these programs to communities that still use tobacco at higher rates and who have been targeted by the tobacco industry. Arkansas receives $282,000,000 from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, and should use more of these funds to help prevent tobacco use and help smokers quit.
- Nearly seven out of ten smokers want to quit, but tobacco use is a serious addiction and quitting can be difficult. Evidence suggests that the number of people quitting smoking increased when coverage for tobacco treatments provides access to all seven FDA-approved tobacco cessation medications and all three forms of counseling without barriers, such as copays and prior authorization. Arkansas lawmakers have a powerful opportunity to help smokers quit and reduce disparities in tobacco use by covering all quit smoking treatments in its Medicaid program. Medicaid enrollees smoke at a rate almost three times as high as those with private insurance.
- Increasing tobacco taxes is one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use, not only for low-income individuals but also for youth. To protect kids from a lifetime of nicotine addiction, the Lung Association encourages Arkansas to increase tobacco taxes. This step is critical to Arkansas as current tobacco use among youth is 36.9 percent.
- Tobacco is a highly addictive product, and close to 95 percent of smokers try their first cigarette by the age of 21. More must be done to prevent and reduce youth tobacco use in Arkansas, and one powerful tool is increasing the minimum age of sale for tobacco products to 21. In fact, the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) found increasing the minimum age of sale for all tobacco products to 21 could prevent 223,000 deaths among people born between 2000 and 2019, including 50,000 fewer dying from lung cancer – the nation’s leading cancer killer.
"We know how to reduce tobacco use in this country. 'State of Tobacco Control' looks at proven methods to save lives and protect the health of all Americans," said Bogdan. "Arkansas elected officials must act to implement these proven policies, which will prevent tobacco-caused death and disease, and help keep our lungs healthy."
For media interested in speaking with an expert about the “State of Tobacco Control” report, lung health, tobacco use and tobacco control policies, contact the American Lung Association at [email protected] or 470-233-7030.
About the American Lung Association
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.