1. Increase tobacco control program funding;
2. Increase the number of local comprehensive smokefree air laws; and
3. Substantially increase the price of tobacco products, including electronic smoking devices.
Georgia continues to be in the bottom tier of states providing vital funding to reduce tobacco use. Georgia's state tobacco prevention program and quit line run on little state funding compared to previous years. Georgia ranks 48th out of 50 states in the amount cigarettes are taxed at. Georgia's cigarette tax is 37 cents per pack; the national state average was $1.65 per pack in September 2016. During 2016, there was interest in including a tobacco tax increase in proposed tax reform legislation, and legislation proposed to exempt military retirement income from state taxes with an offset from a small cigarette tax increase. Neither proposal made it through the committee process.
On the local level, the City of Clarkston passed a comprehensive smokefree air law that included electronic cigarettes and hookah. They become the first metro Atlanta city in several years to pass an ordinance. Local advocates across the state pushed for tobacco free school campuses with 116 of 181 school systems achieving this status as of August 2016. Twenty-eight cities and counties have prohibited smoking in their parks and recreational facilities. Eighty-two percent of hospitals are smokefree in the hospital and on their campuses.
In September 2016, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport announced they would convert their 'smoking rooms' into cigar bars requiring patrons to pay to smoke in the bars, and potentially exposing the rest of the traveling public to secondhand smoke. As of October 1, 2016, Americans for Non-Smokers Rights reported 29 of the top 35 U.S. airports were 100 percent smokefree indoors, so this action is a major step backward. Los Angeles International, Chicago O'Hare and many other large, busy airports provide a smokefree environment for their passengers.
One of the most important moves the Georgia Legislature could make would be to increase funding for state tobacco prevention programs. Adequately funded state programs that prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit are proven to save lives and money. Few elected officials know that the state's tobacco prevention program receives little state funding from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. The American Lung Association in Georgia and tobacco control supporters will seek to educate General Assembly members on the benefits of this change in 2017. At the local level, supporters continue to call for strong local smokefree ordinances especially in the metro Atlanta area.