While Smoking Rates Decline Nationwide, Pennsylvania Lags Behind in Efforts to Reduce Tobacco Use, Save Lives; American Lung Association Report Finds
2018 'State of Tobacco Control' report finds Pennsylvania lawmakers can do more to reduce tobacco use by increasing funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs and increasing the age of sale for tobacco products to 21, to ensure all Pennsylvanians benefit
*Editor's Note: For B-roll and to download soundbites with Deb Brown, Executive Vice President, American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic click here. Please contact us for more detailed interviews.
(January 24, 2018) - HARRISBURG, Pa.
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The American Lung Association's 2018 "State of Tobacco Control" shows Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania 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.
Further hurting the health of Pennsylvanians across the commonwealth, was the decision by legislators to approve a $1.5 billion cash advance against future revenues due Pennsylvania from the 1998 multi-state settlement with big tobacco companies.
"The American Lung Association in Pennsylvania is extremely disappointed that our elected officials have voted on a one-time fix that will harm public health by taking out a $1.5 billion bond backed by money Pennsylvania receives from the 1998 tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, which could not only eliminate programs, but also ultimately cost an estimated 100 Pennsylvanians their livelihoods," said Deborah P. Brown, Executive Vice President, American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic. "Tobacco use is a serious addiction, and the fact that 18 percent of Pennsylvania residents are current smokers highlights how much work remains to be done in our communities to prevent and reduce tobacco use."
"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," added Brown.
This year's "State of Tobacco Control" finds Governor Tom Wolf 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 D
- 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 Pennsylvania calls on Governor Wolf and other policymakers to support a Youth Tobacco Prevention Package that would include increased funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs, an increased licensure fee to sell tobacco products and to increase the age of sale for tobacco products to 21. The American Lung Association in Pennsylvania was pleased to see that the 2017 legislative session saw support from Sen. Mario Scavello, who joined the American Lung Association in Pennsylvania inside the Capitol as more than 500 Lung Association advocates demanded a Tobacco 21 bill.
The Lung Association also calls on lawmakers to remove exemptions from the current Clean Indoor Air Act that restrict smoking in public places and workplaces.
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 Pennsylvania and the federal government could do more to ensure all Americans benefit from tobacco control efforts. According to the American Lung Association:
- There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, and if Pennsylvania would pass a comprehensive smokefree law that eliminates smoking in all public places and workplaces, workers across the state would benefit. This is especially critical for those who work in the service and manufacturing sectors who are often exposed to secondhand smoke daily. A person should not have to be exposed to the dangers of secondhand smoke to put food on the table.
- If Pennsylvania 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. Pennsylvania receives $1.78 billion from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, and should use more of these funds to help prevent tobacco use and help smokers quit.
- 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 Pennsylvania, 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.
"In Pennsylvania, more than 22,000 people die of smoking each year. We know how to reduce tobacco use in this commonwealth and across the country. 'State of Tobacco Control' looks at proven methods to save lives and protect the health of all Americans," said Brown. "Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania 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.