While Smoking Rates Decline Nationwide, Georgia Lags Behind in Efforts to Reduce Tobacco Use, Save Lives, New American Lung Association Report Finds
2018 ‘State of Tobacco Control’ report finds Georgia lawmakers can do more to reduce tobacco use by Increasing tobacco control program funding
(January 24, 2018) - ATLANTA
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The American Lung Association's 2018 "State of Tobacco Control" shows Georgia 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 Georgia 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 17.9 percent of Georgia 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 Nathan Deal and the state legislature are failing to enact proven policies that will reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke 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 Georgia calls on Governor Nathan Deal and other Georgia policymakers to increase tobacco control program funding, substantially increase the price of tobacco products, and urges local cities and counties to pass local smokefree ordinances that further protect workers and places open to the public from secondhand smoke.
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 Georgia and the federal government could do more to ensure all Americans benefit from tobacco control efforts. According to the American Lung Association,
- If Georgia 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. Georgia receives $385,600,000 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. Most people quit several times before they quit for good. Increased coverage for tobacco treatments that access all FDA-approved tobacco cessation medications and all forms of counseling without barriers will help more be successful. Medicaid enrollees smoke at a rate almost three times higher as those with private insurance. Georgia 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, as does the program in South Carolina.
- 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 Georgia to increase tobacco taxes. At 37 cents, Georgia has the third lowest tobacco tax in the U.S. The average state cigarette tax is $1.72 per pack.
- 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 Georgia, 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. "Georgia 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 Britney.Reddick@Lung.org 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.