New Hampshire Earns Dismal Grades from American Lung Association 'State of Tobacco Control' Report
New Hampshire Leads Northeast States in Failing Grades, Leaving Youth At Risk and Lives at Stake.
(January 30, 2019) - PORTSMOUTH, N.H.
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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 New Hampshire earned the most failing grades within the northeast region, accumulating 3 F's and 2 D's. The American Lung Association calls on New Hampshire officials to rethink tobacco policy in order to save lives.
The need for New Hampshire 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.
"In New Hampshire our high school tobacco use rate is 30.3 percent, and our adult tobacco use ate remains at over 19 percent – both higher than the national average. 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 American Lung Association Lance Boucher, Senior Division Director of State Public Policy for the American Lung Association in New Hampshire. "The report provides a roadmap on how to save lives, but New Hampshire has a long way to go in prioritizing the health and wellness of its residents."
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 local communities across New Hampshire are beginning to take steps to reduce tobacco use, demonstrated by the town of Dover becoming the first municipality in the state to raise the age of sale of tobacco products, our state representatives must do more to save lives and ensure all New Hampshire 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 F
- Level of State Tobacco Taxes - Grade D
- Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco - Grade D
- Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade F
The American Lung Association encourages New Hampshire to fully fund tobacco control efforts at levels recommended by the CDC, and in particular, this year's report noted the need to focus on protecting youth from tobacco products by passing a statewide law to raise the age of sale for all tobacco products to 21.
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 New Hampshire, and one powerful tool is increasing the minimum age of sale for tobacco products to 21. 2018 saw the beginning of a groundswell of support for such statewide legislation which received a bipartisan vote of support out of the Senate Health committee, but was stalled on the floor of the full Senate.
"Virtually all adult smokers had their first cigarette before age 21, and most before the age of 18, but we can change this in New Hampshire by increasing the age of sale for tobacco products to at least 21 years old. This move would significantly reduce youth tobacco use, slow the e-cigarette epidemic and save thousands of lives," said Boucher. "In the 2019 'State of Tobacco Control' report, we call for Governor Sununu to take action and protect the children of New Hampshire by raising the minimum sales age for tobacco, including e-cigarettes, to 21."
According to a 2015 report from the National Academy of Medicine, raising the tobacco age to 21 nationwide would 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.
In addition to passing Tobacco 21, New Hampshire has a powerful opportunity to help further reduce and prevent tobacco use by increasing funding for tobacco control programs. An investment in prevention is especially important given the skyrocketing number of youth who are using e-cigarettes, as well as a tool to combat the healthcare costs incurred by the state due to smoking, estimated at over $728 million annually. Despite New Hampshire receiving nearly $255 million from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, the state's programs were funded at only 7.6 percent of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
New Hampshire also notable was the only state in the Northeast to earn a failing grade for Smokefree Air, largely for failing to include e-cigarettes within their current smokefree air policies. The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. And, in 2016, the Surgeon General concluded that secondhand emissions from e-cigarettes contain a dangerous cocktail of chemicals including, "nicotine; ultrafine particles; flavorings such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease; volatile organic compounds such as benzene, and heavy metals, such as lead."
Boucher concluded, "The 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 New Hampshire finally 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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