Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure remain serious public health threats. In addition to the 480,000 lives lost to tobacco-related death and disease each year, smoking is also a risk factor for severe COVID-19 symptoms, making ending tobacco use more critical than ever. The American Lung Association’s “State of Tobacco Control” report, released on January 27, provides a roadmap for state and federal governments to pass proven policies to prevent and reduce tobacco use, like increased tobacco taxes and making public places smokefree.

The Ongoing Tobacco Threat

The youth vaping epidemic continued to addict millions of kids to deadly tobacco products in 2020. With 1 in 5 teens vaping, our children are becoming the next generation hooked on tobacco. This is largely driven by flavored e-cigarettes, and our 19th annual report has added a new state grade supporting policies to end the sale of flavored tobacco products, including flavored e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.

Much like COVID-19, tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure disproportionately impacts certain communities, including communities of color, LGBTQ+ Americans and persons of lower income. To address this critical public health threat, “State of Tobacco Control” also details the federal and state policies needed to prevent and reduce tobacco use among these disproportionately impacted communities.

A “Report Card” on Tobacco Control

Each year, “State of Tobacco Control” tracks progress on proven tobacco control policies at the federal and state level, assigning grades based on whether tobacco control laws and policies are adequately protecting citizens from the enormous health and economic burden caused by tobacco use. This year’s report also focused on what the new Biden Administration needs to do to prevent and reduce tobacco use.

“State of Tobacco Control” 2021 grades the federal government on its current efforts to prevent and reduce tobacco use in five areas: 

  • Federal Regulation of Tobacco Products (SOTC 2021 grade - D)
  • Federal Coverage of Quit Smoking Treatments (SOTC 2021 grade - D)
  • Level of Federal Tobacco Taxes (SOTC 2021 grade - F)
  • Federal Mass Media Campaigns to Prevent and Reduce Tobacco Use (SOTC 2021 grade - A)
  • Federal Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 (SOTC 2021 grade – A)   

The Biden Administration has an important opportunity to change the current trajectory of tobacco use in our nation and complete unfinished business from the past two Administrations, including removing all flavored tobacco products from the marketplace. See the Lung Association’s 2021 federal action plan on tobacco for more. 

“State of Tobacco Control” 2021 also grades each state and the District of Columbia in five areas that have been proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use and save lives: 

  • NEW this Year: Ending the Sale of Flavored Tobacco Products
  • Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs
  • Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws
  • Level of State Tobacco Taxes
  • Coverage of and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco 

While some states made strides in the right direction, the report shows there is still more that must be done. See how your state scored.

What can be done to protect the health of Americans from tobacco?

“State of Tobacco Control” 2021 is focused on proven policies that federal and state governments can enact to prevent and reduce tobacco use. These include:

  • Tobacco prevention and cessation funding and programs. 
  • Comprehensive and barrier-free cessation coverage in private and public health insurance.
  • Comprehensive smokefree laws that eliminate smoking in all public places and workplaces.
  • Increased tobacco taxes.
  • Eliminating the sale of all flavored tobacco products.
  • Full implementation of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act; and
  • Hard-hitting federal media campaigns to encourage smokers to quit and prevent young people from starting to use tobacco.

Learn more about how states and the federal government can act to prevent and reduce tobacco use.

What you can do to help

You can take action by asking the Biden Administration to remove all flavored tobacco products from the marketplace. Kids are attracted by flavored tobacco and are hooked, leading to a lifetime of addiction to tobacco.

For more than a decade, the American Lung Association has been working to end the sale of candy- and fruit-flavored tobacco products as well as menthol cigarettes. After tireless advocacy from the community, we’ve been successful in ending the sale of cigarettes with these kid-friendly flavors. But now we must make sure all flavored products are removed from the marketplace.

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