South Carolina has Mixed Record in Passing Policies to Reduce Tobacco Use, Save Lives, Finds New American Lung Association Report
2018 'State of Tobacco Control' report finds South Carolina lawmakers must still do more to reduce tobacco use by increasing the price of tobacco products to reduce tobacco use among youth and adults
(January 24, 2018) - CHARLESTON, S.C.
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The American Lung Association's 2018 "State of Tobacco Control" shows South Carolina 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 South Carolina has taken significant steps to reduce tobacco use, with the increase in tobacco cessation coverage for Medicaid beneficiaries, elected officials must do more to save lives and ensure all South Carolina 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 Southeast Region Executive Vice President Martha Bogdan. "Tobacco use is a serious addiction, and the fact that 20 percent of South Carolina 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" finds South Carolina's mixed grades show that progress can be made, although more still must be done by Governor Henry McMaster and the state legislature to enact proven policies that will reduce tobacco use, secondhand smoke and save lives:
- Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco - Grade [A]
- Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade [F]
- Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws - Grade [F]
- Level of State Tobacco Taxes - Grade [F]
- Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade [F]
The American Lung Association in South Carolina congratulates the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (SC DHHS) for increasing tobacco cessation coverage for full-benefit Medicaid beneficiaries to align with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Lung Association. SC DHHS and the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) worked together to craft a plan to benefit both fee-for-service and managed care Medicaid benefits.
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 South Carolina and the federal government could do more to ensure all Americans benefit from tobacco control efforts. According to the American Lung Association,
- 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 encourages South Carolina to increase tobacco taxes. This step is critical to South Carolina as current tobacco use among youth is 9.6 percent.
- If South Carolina 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. South Carolina receives $ 243,800,000 from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, and should use more of these funds to help prevent tobacco use and help smokers quit.
- There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. This is especially critical for those who work in the service and manufacturing sectors who are often exposed to secondhand smoke daily. The American Lung Association in South Carolina continues to support passage of local smokefree air ordinances that that eliminates smoking in all public places and workplaces. The state has 62 local comprehensive smokefree ordinances covering about 40 percent of the state's population.
- 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 South Carolina, 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 Bogdan. "South Carolina 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 470-233-7030.
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: Lung.org.