American Lung Association's "State of Tobacco Control 2014" Report Highlights Urgent Need for Nation to Renew Its Commitment to Eliminate Tobacco-Caused Death and Disease

On the heels of the new Surgeon General's report, "State of Tobacco Control 2014" highlights urgent need for bold leadership from nation’s elected officials

EMBARGOED UNTIL: 12:00 a.m. (EST), January 22, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 22, 2014)

Less than a week after the new Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health which warns 5.6 million of today’s youth will die from tobacco use unless action is taken, today the American Lung Association released its “State of Tobacco Control 2014,” finding that the battle to reduce tobacco use has all but stalled. “State of Tobacco Control 2014” issues an urgent call to action to policymakers across the country to reverse their present course and commit to eliminating tobacco-caused death and disease.

“The 2014 Surgeon General’s report provides irrefutable evidence that elected officials hold the key to ending death and disease caused by tobacco use,” said Harold Wimmer, American Lung Association National President and CEO. ‘“State of Tobacco Control 2014” provides the blueprint to our nation’s policymakers on how they can save millions of lives from lung cancer, COPD and other tobacco-caused death and disease,” Wimmer added.

The Lung Association’s “State of Tobacco Control 2014,” our 12th annual report, tracks yearly progress on key tobacco control policies at the federal and state level, assigning grades based on whether laws are adequately protecting citizens from the enormous toll tobacco use takes on lives and the economy. Tobacco-related diseases, such as lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), other cancers, heart disease and stroke kill almost half a million Americans each year. The 2014 report also highlights the 50th anniversary of the historic 1964 Surgeon General’s report that linked smoking to lung cancer and other diseases for the first time.

“Despite strides in reducing smoking rates in America by half in the last 50 years, tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and illness in the U.S., including lung cancer, the number one cancer killer of both men and women in America,” said Wimmer. “The Surgeon General’s 2014 report is the clarion call that our nation cannot let another 50 years of inaction occur.”

In advance of the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Surgeon General’s report, the American Lung Association and its partners called for action by all levels of government to achieve three bold goals:

  • Reduce smoking rates, currently at about 18 percent, to less than 10 percent within 10 years;
  • Protect all Americans from secondhand smoke within five years; and
  • Ultimately eliminate the death and disease caused by tobacco use.

“If these goals are to be realized and lives are to be saved, federal and state governments must enact these lifesaving policies,” said Wimmer. “In short,” Wimmer added, “our nation cannot afford the health or financial consequences of failing to act.”

The failure of the federal and state governments to implement proven policies resulted in 20 million preventable deaths from tobacco use from 1964-2014, including 2.5 million from secondhand smoke. The 2014 Surgeon General’s report found that almost half a million lives are unnecessarily lost each year due to tobacco, as well as $280 billion in healthcare costs and lost productivity.

The federal government showed some forward movement in 2013 after a dismal performance in last year’s report but again failed to do what is needed to meaningfully reduce tobacco use and save lives. 2013 was also another missed opportunity for states to put in place proven policies to reduce tobacco use and save lives, including smokefree workplace laws, higher tobacco taxes and tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs.

Meanwhile, the tobacco industry continued its ruthless pursuit of addicting new users and keeping current users from quitting in 2013. This included efforts at the federal and state levels to exempt their products from meaningful public health protections.

Leadership at the Highest Levels of the Federal Government Needed

While the federal government’s grades improved slightly from 2013 to 2014, significant progress on saving lives from tobacco on the federal level did not occur. Again, the Obama Administration failed to give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) basic oversight authority over all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and cigars, leaving these products without any federal oversight.

While FDA sent a proposed regulation to the White House on October 1, 2013, its progress appears to have stalled. The long-awaited FDA menthol report was released in June. The report found that menthol cigarettes are more likely to hook new youth users, and make it harder for smokers, especially African Americans, to quit.

“Actions speak louder than words, and President Obama’s leadership is needed to ensure that another year does not go by without FDA being given the authority to regulate all tobacco products,” said Wimmer. “Aggressive oversight by FDA over all tobacco products is critical if we are to reduce tobacco use to 10 percent by 2024,” he stated.

Congress also again failed to increase the federal cigarette tax, or advance a bill that would have closed tobacco tax loopholes and tax all tobacco products at a rate equivalent to the cigarette tax rate.

On a positive note, the second round of the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) highly successful “Tips from Former Smokers” media campaign, once again encouraged millions of smokers to seek help quitting. The first Tips campaign in 2012 motivated 100,000 Americans to successfully quit for good, according to research.

However, the Administration once again failed to define what a comprehensive quit smoking benefit under the Affordable Care Act is, preventing millions of Americans from accessing all the tools to successfully help them quit. Many plans created by the Affordable Care Act are required to help their members quit smoking but the failure to define this standard benefit adds unnecessary hurdles and confusion to smokers trying to quit.

“The Obama Administration must act now to ensure everyone eligible for new health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act has access to a comprehensive tobacco cessation benefit,” urged Wimmer. “Helping smokers quit saves lives,” he added.

State Governments Once Again Miss Opportunities in 2013

Overall, progress on policies to prevent and reduce tobacco use continued to languish in the states in 2013.

Only two states – Massachusetts and Minnesota – approved significant cigarette tax increases and no state approved a comprehensive smokefree workplace law. Only one state, North Dakota, has approved a comprehensive smokefree law in the last three years.

There was some small progress on funding for tobacco prevention programs with 11 states increasing funding for these vital programs in 2013. Overall, states spent $485.5 million this year, an increase from $462.5 million last year. However, once again, only two states – Alaska and North Dakota – funded their tobacco prevention programs at levels recommended by the CDC. 40 states and the District of Columbia received F grades for failing to fund their programs at even 50 percent of the CDC level.

Many people still lack access to all the treatments that have been proven to help smokers quit. Only two states provide coverage for all seven FDA-approved medications and three forms of counseling to Medicaid enrollees. Only four states do so for state employees.

“Smokers want to quit and states have a responsibility to help, especially to help those who can least afford it. Helping smokers quit saves lives and money. Sadly, not a single state earned an A grade for cessation in this year’s “State of Tobacco Control 2014” report,” said Wimmer.

Tobacco Industry Stays One Step Ahead

“State of Tobacco Control 2014” finds that tobacco control efforts again face an uphill battle with a well-funded tobacco industry that has adapted new strategies to protect their profits and secure another generation of young tobacco users.

The three largest cigarette manufacturers—Altria, Reynolds American, and Lorillard—continued their aggressive expansion into tobacco products other than cigarettes in 2013. As cigarette use continues to gradually decline, these companies continue to maintain their stranglehold on America’s youth and reap profits from smokeless tobacco, cigars and now e-cigarettes.

CDC’s 2013 studies showed that use of e-cigarette by adults and youth doubled in just one year. There is no federal oversight of these products, and the e-cigarette industry is using celebrity spokespeople to glamorize its products, making unproven health claims, encouraging smokers to switch instead of quit, and creating candy- and fruit-flavored products to attract youth.

“We are faced with a deep-pocketed, ever-evolving tobacco industry that’s determined to maintain its market share at the expense of our kids and current smokers,” said Wimmer, “In the absence of any meaningful action by state and federal policymakers, an ever changing Big Tobacco will continue to gain more customers unless our nation’s leaders step up to fund programs and enact policies proven to make tobacco history.”

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About the American Lung Association
Now in its second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is “Fighting for Air” through research, education and advocacy. 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-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit www.lung.org.