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Connecticut Earns Consistently Disappointing Grades on Tobacco Policies, Finds New American Lung Association Report

2018 ‘State of Tobacco Control’ report finds Connecticut lawmakers are missing opportunities to save lives, reduce tobacco use and ensure all residents benefit from progress

(January 24, 2018) - EAST HARTFORD, Conn.

For more information please contact:

Jennifer Solomon
[email protected]
(516) 680-8927

The American Lung Association’s 2018 “State of Tobacco Control” shows Connecticut, once again, earned less than satisfactory grades on its tobacco policies. The 16th annual report grades states and the federal government on policies proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use, and finds that while Connecticut deserves some praise for being tied for the highest state tax in the country, the incremental increase of $0.45 passed by the legislature in 2017 is unlikely to have meaningful implications for tobacco use. Additionally, elected officials have failed to turn that revenue into impactful public health investments, choosing to forego funding critical prevention and cessation programs.

“Nationwide, cigarette smoking rates have continued to decline to historically low levels, yet tobacco use remains the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease killing over 480,000 Americans each year,” said Jeff Seyler, Executive Vice President, Northeast Region of the American Lung Association. “Tobacco use is a serious addiction, and the fact that 14 percent of adults and 14 percent of high school students in the state of Connecticut are using tobacco today highlights how much work remains to be done in our communities to prevent and reduce tobacco use.”

This year’s “State of Tobacco Control” finds Connecticut’s grades show zero improvement from last year and are evidence that Governor Malloy and the state legislature have not done enough to reduce tobacco use, exposure to secondhand smoke, and save lives:

  • Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
  • Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws - Grade C
  • Level of State Tobacco Taxes - Grade B
  • Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco - Grade D
  • Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade F

The American Lung Association in Connecticut calls on Connecticut policymakers to invest in tobacco and prevention programs. Tobacco remains the leading cause of death and disease and smoking costs the state over $2 billion in healthcare costs each year; yet Connecticut is one of only two states in the nation that provides zero dollars for tobacco prevention programs.  The CDC recommends the Connecticut program be funded at $32 million.

If Connecticut would increase funding for tobacco control programs, they would have a powerful opportunity to focus these programs to communities that still use tobacco at higher rates and who have been targeted by the tobacco industry. Connecticut receives over $516.3 million from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, and should use some of these funds to help prevent tobacco use and help smokers quit.

Fortunately for the residents of Connecticut there is hope for the state to make significant improvements in 2018.  There were more than 10 pieces of tobacco-related legislation introduced at the beginning of the 2017 legislative session - including bills proposing to close the many loopholes in smokefree air laws, increase tobacco taxes with the caveat that this revenue be used to pay for tobacco prevention and cessation, and raising the tobacco sales age to 21, among others.

The Tobacco 21 legislation made the most progress, passing both the Public Health and Finance Committees. The American Lung Association is advocating for its timely passage, citing the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) finding that increasing the minimum age of sale for all tobacco products to 21 could prevent 223,000 deaths among people born between 2000 and 2019, including 50,000 fewer dying from lung cancer – the nation’s leading cancer killer.

Moving forward, the American Lung Association will also be prioritizing its advocacy efforts on closing loop-holes in Connecticut’s indoor smokefree air laws with a focus on eliminating smoking in all public places and workplaces, which would benefit workers across the state. This is especially critical for those who work in the service and manufacturing sectors who are often exposed to secondhand smoke daily.

One area where Connecticut has typically stood out and - continues to lead - is in its comprehensive coverage for all tobacco cessation medications and types of counseling to Medicaid enrollees with minimal barriers (such as copays and prior authorization).  Medicaid enrollees smoke at a rate almost three times as high as those with private insurance and evidence suggests that the number of people quitting smoking increased when tobacco treatments are covered.  Connecticut is one of only 9  states that provide this inclusive coverage to help smokers quit and reduce disparities in tobacco use.

“We know how to reduce tobacco use in this country. ‘State of Tobacco Control’ looks at proven methods to save lives and protect the health of all Americans,” said Ruth Canovi, the Lung Association’s Director of Public Policy in Connecticut. “Connecticut’s elected officials must act to implement these proven policies, which will prevent tobacco-caused death and disease, and help keep our lungs healthy.”

For media interested in speaking with an expert about the “State of Tobacco Control” report, lung health, tobacco use and tobacco control policies, contact the American Lung Association at [email protected] or 516-680-8927.

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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 coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.

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