American Lung Association Troubled by Trends in New CDC Study

Lower taxes attract teens to cigars, smokeless products

Statement of the American Lung Association

Washington, NY (August 9, 2012)

The American Lung Association is troubled by the leveling off of tobacco use rates—especially for certain tobacco products—seen in Current Tobacco Use Among Middle and High School Students―United States, 2011,” a new study released today in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). Although we are pleased to see the continuing decline in overall smoking rates, it is worrisome that the reduction seems to be leveling off. Especially troubling is the fact that current rates of cigar and smokeless tobacco use—particularly among high school boys—appear to be headed in the wrong direction as they now nearly match the rates of cigarette smoking.

The unfortunate reality behind this trend is that young people are turning to cheaper tobacco products that are not safe alternatives to cigarettes. Earlier this year, the Government Accountability Office released a study that found unequal tax rates among all tobacco products has led to “significant market shifts” as tobacco users switch to lower-priced products instead of quitting.

Tobacco companies know this and are clearly attempting to capitalize on the tax and subsequent price difference between cigarettes and cigars by aggressively marketing products such as smaller, candy-flavored cigars and smokeless tobacco products to America’s youth.

Congress and state elected officials can and must equalize tobacco tax rates for all tobacco products to help reduce overall tobacco use by preventing tobacco companies from taking advantage of differences in the price of tobacco products.

In addition, Congress must protect the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authority over all tobacco products under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. Pending legislation in the U.S. Senate (S.1461) and the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 1639)—heavily “encouraged” by the cigar industry—would exempt many cigars, including candy-flavored and other cigars that are most popular among youth, from any FDA oversight. This legislation must be rejected especially given the levels of cigar smoking among high school boys seen in this new CDC study.

Use of any tobacco product, including cigars is not safe. Smoke from pipes and cigars contain the same toxic chemicals as cigarettes, and cause death and disease. The U.S. Surgeon General and the National Cancer Institute have confirmed that cigar smoking can cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cancers of the oral cavity, larynx, esophagus and lung, as well as heart disease. Each day, almost 3,000 youth under 18 smoke a cigar for the first time and 15.7 percent of all high school boys are current cigar users.

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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: www.Lung.org.