While Smoking Rates Decline Nationwide, Virginia Lags Behind in Efforts to Reduce Tobacco Use, Save Lives; American Lung Association Report Finds
2018 'State of Tobacco Control' report finds Virginia lawmakers can do more to reduce tobacco use by increasing the cigarette excise tax by at least $1.00 per pack; creating parity between taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products; and funding tobacco prevention and cessation programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended level.
*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) - RICHMOND, Va.
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The American Lung Association's 2018 "State of Tobacco Control" shows Virginia 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 Virginia 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 15.3 percent of Virginia 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 Ralph Northam 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 F
- 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 Virginia calls on Governor Northam and other Virginia policymakers to increase the cigarette excise tax by at least $1.00 per pack; create parity between taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products; and fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended level.
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 Virginia 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 Virginia 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 Virginia 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. Virginia receives $314.1 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 Virginia to increase the cigarette excise tax by at least $1.00 per pack. This step is critical to New Jersey as current tobacco use among youth is 8.2 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 Virginia, 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 Virginia, an estimated 10,310 people die from smoking each year. We know how to reduce tobacco use in Virginia and across the country. 'State of Tobacco Control' looks at proven methods to save lives and protect the health of all Americans," said Brown. "Virginia 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 Virginia Communications Director Ewa Dworakowski at Ewa.Dworakowski@lung.org or 717-971-1123 or 717-503-3903.
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.