State Funding Cuts Undermine Effort to Reduce Tobacco Use in Maine, Putting Progress at Stake and Lives at Risk | American Lung Association

State Funding Cuts Undermine Effort to Reduce Tobacco Use in Maine, Putting Progress at Stake and Lives at Risk

American Lung Association’s ‘State of Tobacco Control’ report finds Maine must do more to protect residents, youth from the harms of tobacco use

(January 25, 2017) -

The American Lung Association’s “State of Tobacco Control” report has found that in 2016 the State of Maine failed to do enough to implement proven-effective policies that would save lives. The 15th annual report grades states and the federal government on policies to prevent and reduce tobacco use. The report shows that most states and the federal government earned poor grades. Maine received three disappointing grades this year, including a “D” for its limited funding for tobacco prevention programs.  The state earned a “C” in the same category last year.

“Tobacco use is the leading cause of death and disease in our nation.  Today, 19.5 percent of Maine’s adult residents smoke, while 24.5 percent – nearly one in four - of Maine high school students currently use tobacco products,” said Jeff Seyler, President and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast. “In light of the proposed tobacco control funding cuts and the state’s inability to pass common-sense Tobacco 21 age of sale legislation, it seems that policymakers in Maine are simply not taking tobacco control and prevention seriously - and in the long run the cost will be much higher, both in tax dollars and in lives lost. The good news is, ‘State of Tobacco Control’ provides policymakers with a blueprint for how to correct course.  Let’s hope they use it.”

The “State of Tobacco Control” report documents the progress and failures of the states and the federal government to address tobacco use, and the report assigns grades based on whether federal and state laws protect Americans from the enormous health toll tobacco use takes on lives and the economy. This year, the report has added a new grade on efforts to increase the minimum sales age for tobacco products to 21.

“Close to 95 percent of adult smokers try their first cigarette before the age of 21,” said Seyler. “Increasing the minimum age of sale for tobacco products to 21 will significantly reduce youth tobacco use and save thousands of lives nationwide.”

This year’s “State of Tobacco Control” finds the State of Maine’s poor grades show that much more must be done by our Governor and State Legislature to pass proven-effective policies that will reduce tobacco use and save lives:

  • Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade D
  • 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 of the Northeast calls on the State of Maine to act to increase the age of sale for all tobacco products to 21; restore statewide funding for tobacco prevention and cessation efforts; and continue its good work to make all shared and public spaces smokefree and clear of secondhand smoke.   A bright spot in in the report highlights Maine as one of eight states to offer comprehensive Medicaid coverage for all cessation medications and counseling to help smokers quit.

“We are glad to see Maine taking steps to increase access to cessation services,” said Lance Boucher, the Lung Association’s Director of Public Policy in Maine and New Hampshire, “But that effort must be coupled with adequate state funding to prevent and control the problem in the first place. In Maine, health care costs due to smoking is over $811 million annually and last year we lost 2,390 Mainers to tobacco.  Instead of the proposed funding cuts in the Governor’s budget, the State of Maine should refocus passing on common-sense laws that protect our youth from a lifetime of addition, such as Senator Davis’s legislation raising the retail sales age of tobacco products to 21.  The fact that one in four high schoolers in Maine uses tobacco is proof that the State of Maine is sleeping at the wheel.”

In this year’s “State of Tobacco Control,” the federal government earned an “F” for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Regulation of Tobacco Products. Although the American Lung Association applauds the release of the final rule that gave FDA authority over all tobacco products, the report recognizes the Obama Administration’s failure to proceed with other key initiatives including requiring graphic warning labels on cigarettes and the federal government’s failure to move forward on issuing a rule to end the sale of menthol cigarettes nationwide – despite the recommendations from an FDA expert advisory committee.

Other federal grades include a “C” for Federal Coverage of Quit Smoking Treatments, an “F” for Level of Federal Tobacco Taxes and a “B” for its Mass Media Campaigns, including the Tips from Former Smokers Campaign.

“It’s not a secret how to reduce tobacco use in this country. ‘State of Tobacco Control’ looks at proven methods to save lives and prevent our children from becoming the next generation hooked on tobacco,” said Seyler. “We must demand that elected officials in Maine urgently act to implement these proven policies that will save lives and prevent tobacco-caused death and disease.”

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 Jennifer.solomon@lung.orgor 516-680-8927

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About the American Lung Association of the Northeast
The American Lung Association of the Northeast is part of the American Lung Association, the oldest voluntary health organization in the U.S. Established in 1904 to combat tuberculosis; our mission today is to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. The focus is on air quality, asthma, tobacco control, and all lung disease. The American Lung Association in the Northeast serves CT, MA, ME, NH, NY, RI and VT.

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