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State of Tobacco Control 2016: Progress in Peril

(February 3, 2016)

Four teenagers surrounding tablet screen The American Lung Association's 14th annual "State of Tobacco Control" report has found that policymakers in Washington, D.C., and across the country are still failing to take action to end tobacco-caused death and disease. The report, released on February 3, also finds that nearly 1 in 4 kids use tobacco products, and that a dramatic increase in youth use of tobacco products other than cigarettes threatens to undo America's overall progress in the fight against the number one preventable cause of death in the nation.

The "State of Tobacco Control" report documents the progress and failure of the states and the federal government to address tobacco use. The report assigns grades based on whether federal and state laws protect Americans from the enormous toll tobacco use takes on lives and the economy.

Bold Goals

This year's report found that while progress has been made in reducing youth cigarette smoking, the use of other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, hookah and little cigars, is alarmingly high. Almost one quarter of all high school students are still using at least one tobacco product of some type. Nicotine is addictive and also negatively impacts adolescent brain development. Urgent action is needed by both state and federal governments to reverse this deadly trend.

The American Lung Association and its partners have called on all levels of government to take immediate action to achieve three bold goals:

  1. Reduce rates of smoking and other tobacco use to less than 10 percent for all communities by 2024;
  2. Protect all Americans from secondhand smoke by 2019; and
  3. Ultimately eliminate the death and disease caused by tobacco use.

The 2016 report outlines the steps needed to achieve these goals, calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to act quickly to finalize the rule that would assert authority over e-cigarettes, hookah, cigars and other unregulated tobacco products.

Federal Grades

The federal government's report card for tobacco control efforts is mixed, at best. The federal government earned an "I" for FDA regulation of tobacco products. As of January 31, 2016, the Obama Administration had not yet finalized the rule giving the FDA oversight authority over all tobacco products including cigars, e-cigarettes, little cigars and hookah (commonly referred to as the deeming rule). The grade of "I" for Incomplete is assigned because the final rule is expected at any time. Other federal grades include a "C" for coverage of treatments to help people quit, and a disappointing "F" for tobacco taxes. The grade of "B" was assigned for mass media campaigns, a new grading area for the "State of Tobacco Control" report.

The report praises the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) "Tips from Former Smokers" media campaign, which has prompted hundreds of thousands of Americans to quit smoking since the ads started airing in 2012. This campaign has played a contributing role in reducing adult smoking rates. The FDA's "Real Cost" Campaign launched in February 2014 is aimed at preventing at risk youth from beginning any tobacco use. "State of Tobacco Control 2016" recognizes that in order to maximize the number of smokers reached by the "Tips from Former Smokers" campaign, it must be on the air year round, which is why the Mass Media Campaign grade stands at a "B."

Tobacco taxes are another proven way to reduce tobacco use, especially among youth. However, Congress failed to pass a bill in 2015 that would have increased federal tobacco taxes so that other tobacco products would be taxed at a similar rate to cigarettes.

Visit the report to learn more.

State Grades

"State of Tobacco Control 2016" also assigns grades to each states' tobacco control efforts in four key areas—Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Funding, Smokefree Air Laws, Tobacco Taxes and Access to Tobacco Cessation Treatments. Aside from some progress on tobacco taxes, the states did little in 2015 to help meet the three bold goals outlined by the Lung Association and its partners.

Eight states increased cigarette taxes—Alabama, Connecticut, Kansas, Louisiana, Nevada, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont. Special notice went to Nevada for increasing its cigarette tax by $1.00 per pack. Unfortunately, many of the other states did not increase cigarette taxes by an amount proven to be large enough to reduce youth or adult smoking rates.

The report also looked at protections from secondhand smoke exposure in workplaces. Secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard causing more than 41,000 deaths per year. While 28 states plus the District of Columbia have passed comprehensive smokefree workplace laws, no state passed a comprehensive law in 2015. At the local level, a major victory was scored when the City of New Orleans eliminated smoking, including e-cigarette use, in public spaces and workplaces including bars and casinos.

The Lung Association believes that no one should be exposed to harmful secondhand smoke to earn a paycheck, and it's the responsibility of all states to step up and protect their citizens from toxic secondhand smoke.

How did your state rate?  Visit the report to find out and learn more about how you can help protect more Americans, especially our kids, from the terrible toll of death and disease from tobacco use.

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