Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and in North Carolina. To address this enormous toll, the American Lung Association in North Carolina calls for the following actions to be taken by our elected officials:
- Restore funding for tobacco use prevention and cessation programs, including QuitlineNC;
- Increase the state cigarette tax by at least $1.00 per pack; and
- Resist attempts to weaken the smokefree restaurants and bars law and expand the law to include all public places and private worksites.
The American Lung Association has identified restoration of funding for the state's tobacco use prevention and cessation programs as the number one prerequisite to improving the health of North Carolinians. In 2017, the North Carolina General Assembly added funding for the state's tobacco use prevention and cessation program. While funding levels remain far from the $17.3 million the tobacco use prevention and cessation programs received in 2011 and before, these new funds are badly needed and much appreciated.
QuitlineNC, the state's phone counseling service for tobacco users, received an additional $250,000 in state funding in fiscal year 2018 to add to its $1.1 million. Demand for Quitline services is great. In previous years the Quitline had to cut back on services to avoid shutting down before the end of the fiscal year. $500,000 in new funds were provided to the state's tobacco prevention program, and $250,000 in funding was again allocated for You Quit, Two Quit, a program to screen and treat tobacco use in women of reproductive age, pregnant and postpartum mothers. All together, tobacco use prevention and cessation initiatives received $2.1 million in state funding for fiscal year 2018.
The American Lung Association in North Carolina will continue to partner with the North Carolina Alliance for Health as it defends against any threats or attempts to weaken the smokefree restaurants and bars law and seeks options for strengthening protections for nonsmokers. An increase in North Carolina's 45-cent cigarette tax is overdue and should be a significant increase. Price increases of $1.00 per pack or more have repeatedly been shown to reduce youth and adult smoking rates. The Lung Association in North Carolina, along with other partners, will continue to emphasize increased funding for tobacco use prevention programs and for QuitlineNC.