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Poor Effort to Reduce Tobacco Use in Connecticut Puts Lives at Risk

American Lung Association’s ‘State of Tobacco Control’ report finds Connecticut must do more to protect residents, youth from the harms of tobacco use

(January 25, 2017) -

The American Lung Association’s “State of Tobacco Control” report has found that in 2016 the State of Connecticut failed to do enough to implement proven-effective policies that would save lives. The 15th annual report grades states and the federal government on policies to prevent and reduce tobacco use. The report shows that most states and the federal government earned poor grades. Connecticut received two failing grades for not yet raising the age of sale to 21 and its place as one of only two states to have zero funding for prevention and control programs.   Connecticut’s highest grade was a “B” for tobacco taxes.

“Tobacco use is the leading cause of death and disease in our nation.  Today, over 360,000 adult residents of Connecticut currently smoke, while 14.3 percent of Connecticut high school students currently use tobacco products,” said Jeff Seyler, President and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast. “Connecticut policymakers are simply not doing enough to protect the health of their residents, and it’s costing billions of tax payer dollars and thousands of lives every year.  The ‘State of Tobacco Control’ provides them with a blueprint for how to save lives and protect kids from a lifetime of addiction.  Let’s hope they use it.”

The “State of Tobacco Control” report documents the progress and failures of the states and the federal government to address tobacco use, and the report assigns grades based on whether federal and state laws protect Americans from the enormous health toll tobacco use takes on lives and the economy. This year, the report has added a new grade on efforts to increase the minimum sales age for tobacco products to 21.

“Close to 95 percent of adult smokers try their first cigarette before the age of 21,” said Seyler. “Increasing the minimum age of sale for tobacco products to 21 will significantly reduce youth tobacco use and save thousands of lives nationwide.”

This year’s “State of Tobacco Control” finds the State of Connecticut’s poor grades show that much more must be done by our Governor and State Legislature to pass proven-effective policies that will reduce tobacco use 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 of the Northeast calls on the State of Connecticut to act to increase the age of sale for all tobacco products to 21; achieve tax parity between cigarettes and other tobacco products, and restore statewide funding for tobacco prevention and cessation efforts.  A bright spot in in the report highlights Connecticut as one of eight states to offer comprehensive Medicaid coverage for all cessation medications and counseling to help smokers quit.

Beyond efforts to reduce tobacco use rates, the report also looked at secondhand smoke protections in workplaces. While 28 states plus the District of Columbia have passed comprehensive smokefree workplace laws, no state passed a comprehensive law in 2016, and only one state has passed a comprehensive smokefree law since 2011. Connecticut is one of 22 states that has yet to fully protect its citizens from secondhand smoke.

“While other states have paved the way on tobacco prevention and control, Connecticut has lagged behind and it has allowed its residents to pay the price,” said Ruth Canovi, the Lung Association’s Director of Public Policy in Connecticut. “Every year Connecticut fails to pass the common sense laws to reduce tobacco use, that price goes up – and this year Connecticut spent over $2 billion in health care costs due to smoking, and we lost nearly 5,000 Connecticut residents to smoking attributable deaths.  It is time we act to protect our youth from a lifetime of addiction, fund programs proven to help current smokers quit, and give all Connecticut residents the freedom to breath smokefree air in public and shared spaces.”

In this year’s “State of Tobacco Control,” the federal government earned an “F” for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Regulation of Tobacco Products. Although the American Lung Association applauds the release of the final rule that gave FDA authority over all tobacco products, the report recognizes the Obama Administration’s failure to proceed with other key initiatives including requiring graphic warning labels on cigarettes and the federal government’s failure to move forward on issuing a rule to end the sale of menthol cigarettes nationwide – despite the recommendations from an FDA expert advisory committee.

Other federal grades include a “C” for Federal Coverage of Quit Smoking Treatments, an “F” for Level of Federal Tobacco Taxes and a “B” for Mass Media Campaigns, including the Tips from Former Smokers Campaign.

“It’s not a secret how to reduce tobacco use in this country. ‘State of Tobacco Control’ looks at proven methods to save lives and prevent our children from becoming the next generation hooked on tobacco,” said Seyler. “We must demand that elected officials in Connecticut urgently act to implement these proven policies that will save lives and prevent tobacco-caused death and disease.”

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


About the American Lung Association of the Northeast
The American Lung Association of the Northeast is part of the American Lung Association, the oldest voluntary health organization in the U.S. Established in 1904 to combat tuberculosis; our mission today is to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. The focus is on air quality, asthma, tobacco control, and all lung disease. The American Lung Association in the Northeast serves CT, MA, ME, NH, NY, RI and VT.

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