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Kentucky has a Mixed Record in Passing Policies to Reduce Tobacco Use, Save Lives, Finds New American Lung Association Report

(January 24, 2018) - Louisville, KY

The American Lung Association’s 2018 “State of Tobacco Control” shows Kentucky earned mixed 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 Kentucky has taken significant steps to reduce tobacco use, including passing a law to cover all smoking cessation treatments without barriers, elected officials must do more to save lives and ensure all Kentucky residents benefit.


“Nationwide, 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 American Lung Association’s Kentucky Director of Advocacy, Heather Wehrheim. “Tobacco use is a serious addiction, and the fact that 24.5 percent of Kentucky residents are current smokers highlights how much work remains to be done in our communities to prevent and reduce tobacco use.”


This year’s “State of Tobacco Control” report shows Kentucky with mixed grades but that progress can be made.  More still must be done by Governor Bevin and the state legislature to enact proven policies that will reduce tobacco use and secondhand smoke and save lives:

  • Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F

  • Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws - Grade F

  • Level of State Tobacco Taxes - Grade F

  • Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco - Grade C

  • Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade F


The American Lung Association in Kentucky congratulates lawmakers on the passage of SB 89 to make cessation treatment coverage comprehensive and barrier free and  calls on Kentucky policymakers to act on raising the cigarette tax by a dollar or more.


Sadly, the report also details that as a result of decades of targeted marketing by the tobacco industry, too many Americans haven’t seen the benefits of reduced smoking rates, and Kentucky and the federal government could do more to ensure all Americans benefit from tobacco control efforts.


According to the American Lung Association:


  • There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke and, if Kentucky would pass a comprehensive smokefree law that eliminates smoking in all public places and workplaces, workers across the state would benefit. This is especially critical for those who work in the service and manufacturing sectors who are often exposed to secondhand smoke daily. A person should not have to be exposed to the dangers of secondhand smoke to put food on the table.

  • If Kentucky would increase funding for tobacco control programs, they would have a powerful opportunity to target these programs to communities that still use tobacco at higher rates and who have been targeted by the tobacco industry. Kentucky receives $371,000,000 from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, and should use more of these funds to help prevent tobacco use and help smokers quit.

  • Increasing tobacco taxes is one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use, not only among low-income individuals but also for youth. To protect kids from a lifetime of nicotine addiction, the Lung Association in Kentucky encourages Kentucky to increase tobacco taxes by a dollar or more. This step is critical to Kentucky as current tobacco use among youth is 35.8%.

  • Tobacco is a highly addictive product, and close to 95 percent of smokers try their first cigarette by the age of 21. More must be done to prevent and reduce youth tobacco use in Kentucky, and one powerful tool is increasing the minimum age of sale for tobacco products to 21. In fact, the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) found 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.


“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 Wehrheim. “Kentucky 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 502-759-2889.

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