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Washington State Lags Behind in Efforts to Reduce Tobacco Use, New American Lung Association Report Finds

(January 24, 2018) - Seattle | Washington

2018 ‘State of Tobacco Control’ report finds Washington lawmakers can do more to reduce tobacco use by youth by raising the minimum legal sale age for tobacco products to 21 years of age and funding tobacco prevention programs

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON (January 24, 2018) – The American Lung Association’s 2018 “State of Tobacco Control” shows Washington State can do more to save lives by implementing proven tobacco policies. The 16th annual report grades states and the federal government on policies to prevent and reduce tobacco use, and finds Washington lagging significantly behind other states. The governor and state legislators can do more to prevent the death and disease associated with tobacco use.

“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 Executive Director in Washington, Season Oltmann. “Tobacco use is a serious addiction. We have seen significant declines in tobacco use in the general population; yet there are certain populations where smoking remains prevalent and persistent, like in our lower income households, communities of color and LGBTQ youth. More needs to be done to eliminate these tobacco-related disparities in our state.”

This year’s “State of Tobacco Control” identifies opportunities for our lawmakers to adopt policies to reduce tobacco use and safe lives. The report gives Washington the following grades:

F      Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs

A      Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws

C      Level of State Tobacco Taxes

F      Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco

F      Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21

The American Lung Association in Washington calls on legislators to pass legislation raising the minimum legal sale age for tobacco products to 21 years of age during the 2018 session. This legislation is supported by Governor Jay Inslee, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Secretary of Health John Weisman and a number of health organizations, including the American Lung Association. Prioritizing funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs should also be a priority.

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 Washington and the federal government could do more to ensure all Americans benefit from tobacco control efforts. According to the American Lung Association:

  • If Washington would adequately fund 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. Washington receives $563 million from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes; yet spends less than $2 million in state dollars to help prevent tobacco use and help smokers quit.
  • 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 Washington, 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 our state. ‘State of Tobacco Control’ looks at proven methods to save lives and protect the health of all Americans,” said Oltmann. “Washington 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 Season Oltmann at the American Lung Association at [email protected] or (206) 512-3293.


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 Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit:

American Lung Association • 55 W. Wacker Drive, Suite 1150 • Chicago, IL 60601
1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872)

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