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Inadequate State Funding Undermines Effort to Reduce Tobacco Use in Rhode Island, Putting Progress at Stake and Lives at Risk

American Lung Association’s ‘State of Tobacco Control’ report finds Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island 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. Rhode Island received one particularly disappointing grade this year, as it slid backward from a “D” to an “F” on smoking cessation programs and funding.

“Tobacco use is the leading cause of death and disease in our nation.  Today, 15.5 percent of Rhode Island’s adult residents smoke, while over 25 percent – one in four -  Rhode Island high school students currently use tobacco products,” said Jeff Seyler, President and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast. “Our Rhode Island legislators have dropped the ball by not funding cessation programs and stalling on passage of common-sense Tobacco 21 legislation.  Rhode Island already spends nearly $640 million in health care costs due to smoking.  If we don’t start focusing on prevention the cost will grow much higher, both in tax dollars and in lives lost.”

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 Rhode Island’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 A
  • Level of State Tobacco Taxes - Grade B
  • Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco - Grade F
  • Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade F

The American Lung Association of the Northeast calls on the State of Rhode Island to act to increase the age of sale for all tobacco products to 21; restore statewide funding for tobacco prevention and cessation efforts; and continue its good work to make all shared and public spaces smokefree and clear of secondhand smoke.

“In the past we’ve been proud to see Rhode Island make steady progress on tobacco initiatives, but this year we are disappointed to see the grade for access and funding to cessation services slide backwards,” said Jennifer Wall, the Lung Association’s Director of Public Policy and Health Education in Rhode Island, “The good news is that with the restoration of funding and the passage of a statewide Tobacco 21 law and comprehensive tobacco tax increase, Rhode Island can get back on track.  We look forward to working with the Governor and State legislature to make sure that all Rhode Islanders have access to the services they need to quit and to prioritize the health of our youths by protecting them from a lifetime of addiction.”

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 its 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 Rhode Island 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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