Massachusetts Earns Failing Grade in American Lung Association 'State of Tobacco Control' Report for Tobacco Prevention and Control Efforts
Massachusetts Leading in Smokefree Air and Minimum Age Categories, but Funds Control and Prevention Programs at Only 11 Percent of CDC Recommended Level
(January 30, 2019) - BOSTON
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Tobacco use remains the nation's leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 480,000 lives every year. This year's "State of Tobacco Control" report from the American Lung Association finds Massachusetts had mixed progress on its efforts to reduce and prevent tobacco use. The American Lung Association congratulates Massachusetts for recently becoming the sixth state in the nation to raise the age of sale of tobacco products to 21, but calls on Governor Baker to increase funding for tobacco prevention and control funding in order to reduce tobacco use and save lives.
The need for Massachusetts to take action to protect youth from tobacco is more urgent than ever, with youth e-cigarette use reaching epidemic levels due to a 78 percent increase in high school e-cigarette use from 2017 to 2018, according to results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey. This equals one million additional kids beginning to use e-cigarettes, placing their developing bodies and lungs at risk from the chemicals in e-cigarettes as well as a lifetime of addiction to a deadly product. This has caused the U.S. Surgeon General to declare e-cigarette use among young people an epidemic in an Advisory issued in December 2018.
"Massachusetts took a vital step last year in passing Tobacco 21, but our high school tobacco use rate remains at 24.6 percent. Tobacco use is a serious addiction and we need to invest in the proven measures to prevent and reduce tobacco use outlined in ‘State of Tobacco Control'," said Elizabeth Hamlin-Berninger, Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association in Massachusetts. "Raising the age of sale is one part of a larger strategy that must include programs to educate and raise awareness among youth on why tobacco use is dangerous, increases in the tax on all tobacco products, and barrier-free help for Massachusetts residents to quit their nicotine addiction."
The 17th annual "State of Tobacco Control" report grades states and the federal government on policies proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use, and finds that while Massachusetts has taken significant steps to reduce tobacco use, including raising the age of sale, elected officials must do more to save lives and ensure all Massachusetts residents benefit from reductions in tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke:
- 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 C
- Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade A
The American Lung Association encourages Massachusetts to fully fund tobacco control efforts at levels recommended by the CDC. By doing so they would have a powerful opportunity to help further reduce and prevent tobacco use, including supporting communities that still use tobacco at higher rates and who have been targeted by the tobacco industry. An investment in prevention is especially important given the skyrocketing number of youth who are using e-cigarettes, and the over $4 billion in healthcare costs incurred by the state annually, due to smoking. Despite Massachusetts receiving $864 million from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, the state only funds tobacco control efforts at 11 percent of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"This year marks the 20th anniversary of the largest legal settlement in U.S. history – the tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. Massachusetts receives millions of dollars every year from this settlement, and we believe the funds should be used to support the health of our communities, and to help smokers quit and prevent tobacco use," said Hamlin-Berninger.
In addition to funding control and prevention program, more must be done to help the nearly seven out of 10 smokers that want to quit. Evidence suggests that the number of people quitting smoking increased when coverage for tobacco treatments provides access to all seven FDA-approved tobacco cessation medications and all three forms of counseling without barriers, such as copays and prior authorization. Massachusetts lawmakers can help smokers quit and reduce disparities in tobacco use by reducing barriers to care and coverage for these treatments in its Medicaid program.
Amber Pelletier, Director of Health Promotions for the American Lung Association in Massachusetts said, "Covering quit smoking treatments in MassHealth is the correct and smart choice. Not only will it help smokers quit and save lives, but it will also cut healthcare costs – a win-win for the health of Massachusetts residents and the economy."
Hamlin-Berninger concluded, "State of Tobacco Control" 2019 provides a blueprint that states and the federal government can follow to put in place proven policies that will have the greatest impact on reducing tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke in the U.S. The real question is: Will lawmakers in Massachusetts end their failure to act and take this opportunity to achieve lasting reductions in tobacco-related 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
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 coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.
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