While Smoking Rates Decline Nationwide, The District of Columbia Lags Behind in Efforts to Reduce Tobacco Use, Save Lives; American Lung Association Report Finds
2018 'State of Tobacco Control' report finds District of Columbia lawmakers can do more to reduce tobacco use by increasing the tobacco tax, funding tobacco prevention and cessation programs at the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and allocating funding for the implementation of the city’s Tobacco 21 law
(January 24, 2018) - WASHINGTON, D.C.
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The American Lung Association’s 2018 "State of Tobacco Control" shows the District of Columbia 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 D.C. 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 more than 480,000 Americans each year," said Deborah P. Brown, Executive Vice President, American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic. "Tobacco use is a serious addiction, and the fact that 14.7 percent of District of Columbia 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 that Mayor Muriel Bowser and council members 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 A
- Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade D
- Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade B
- Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade F
The American Lung Association in the District of Columbia calls on Mayor Muriel Bowser and other policymakers to increase the tobacco tax by $2.00 per pack; fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs at the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and allocate funding for the implementation of the city's Tobacco 21 law, which was approved in 2016.
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 the District of Columbia and the federal government could do more to ensure all Americans benefit from tobacco control efforts. According to the Lung Association:
- If the District of Columbia 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. The District of Columbia receives $68.1 million from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, and should use more of these funds to help prevent tobacco use and help smokers quit.
- 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 the District of Columbia to increase tobacco tax by $2.00 per pack. This step is critical to D.C. as current tobacco use among youth is 12.5 percent.
- Tobacco is a highly addictive product, and close to 95 percent of smokers try their first cigarette by the age of 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. Presently, the District awaits appropriation of funds to implement the Prohibition Against Selling Tobacco Products to Individuals Under 21 Amendment Act of 2015. This bill passed in 2016 and amends the current District law to prohibit the sale of tobacco products to those under 21 years of age. Presently, the law prohibits the sale of cigarettes to those under 18 years of age. The new law will only take effect though if money is budgeted for its implementation in the 2018 budget.
"In the District of Columbia, an estimated 790 people die each year because of smoking. We know how to reduce tobacco use in D.C. and across the country. 'State of Tobacco Control' looks at proven methods to save lives and protect the health of all Americans," said Brown. "District of Columbia 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 in the District of Columbia Communications Director Ewa Dworakowski at Ewa.Dworakowski@lung.org or 717-971-1123; 717-503-3903 (cell).
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.