Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and in Iowa. To address this enormous toll, the American Lung Association in Iowa calls for the following actions to be taken by our elected officials:
- Increase the cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack;
- Reduce exposure to secondhand smoke through comprehensive smokefree and tobacco-free laws and policies in all public places; and
- Increase funding to the Iowa Department of Public Health, Division of Tobacco Use Prevention and Control.
In 2017, the American Lung Association in Iowa advocated to increase funding for the Division of Tobacco Use Prevention and Control by $2.3 million each year, for the next three consecutive years. A budget bill was introduced late in session proposing a $1 million cut to Tobacco Prevention and Control. This budget bill prompted a change in strategy to advocate for level funding for fiscal year 2018. In the end, the Division of Tobacco Use Prevention and Control suffered over a $1 million cut to fiscal year 2018 funding.
Due to the cut in funding, changes were made to the State of Iowa funded tobacco cessation service, Quitline Iowa. Quitline Iowa is a tobacco cessation service to all Iowans that provides free phone counseling, web counseling and potential cessation medication benefits. As of July 1, 2017, persons who are members of a Managed Care Organization (MCO) must go through their MCO to receive tobacco cessation services. This has created a large barrier for Iowans and providers due to the additional steps members and providers must take and a large volume of provider prior authorization denials.
Other efforts in the 2017 legislative session included a bill to increase the minimum sale age of tobacco from 18 to 21. The bill did not move forward. The American Lung Association in Iowa enters the 2018 Legislative session with a new Governor and Lieutenant Governor due to the previous governor accepting an appointment in the Trump Administration.
In 2018, the American Lung Association in Iowa, along with our partners, will advocate for an increase in the cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack and to direct a portion of the new revenue to tobacco use prevention and cessation programs. This increase would help bring our state back to the high point for tobacco prevention and cessation funding in Iowa last reached in 2008 of $12.8 million. The additional revenue from the tobacco tax increase would be dedicated to other health programs. The Lung Association will also continue to advocate for closing loopholes in the Smoke Free Air Act and increasing the tobacco sales age to 21.