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American Lung Association 'State of Tobacco Control' Report Finds South Carolina Must Do More to Prevent, Reduce Tobacco Use

South Carolina earns F in tobacco taxes, Lung Association calls officials to increase taxes and pass legislation to raise tobacco sales age to 21

(January 30, 2019) - CHARLESTON, S.C.

For more information please contact:

Britney Reddick
[email protected]
470-233-7030

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 South Carolina earned failing grades on its efforts to reduce and prevent tobacco use. The American Lung Association calls on South Carolina officials to increase tobacco taxes and pass legislation to raise tobacco sales age to 21 in order to save lives.

The need for South Carolina 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 South Carolina, our smoking rates remain at 18.8 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 American Lung Association Senior Director of Advocacy, June Deen. "The report provides a roadmap on how to save lives, but much work remains to be done in communities across South Carolina to prevent and reduce tobacco use."

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 South Carolina has taken significant steps to reduce tobacco use, including access to cessation services, elected officials must do more to save lives and ensure all South Carolina 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 [F]
  • Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco - Grade [B]
  • Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade [F]

The American Lung Association encourages South Carolina to fully fund tobacco control efforts at levels recommended by the CDC, and, this year's report noted the need to focus on tobacco taxes and Tobacco 21.  

Increasing tobacco taxes is one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use, not only among low-income individuals but also for youth. Multiple studies have shown that every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces consumption by about four percent among adults and about seven percent among 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 26.1 percent," said Deen.

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.

  • "Virtually all adult smokers had their first cigarette before age 21, and most before the age of 18, but we can change this in South Carolina 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 Deen. "In the 2019 ‘State of Tobacco Control' report, we call for officials to act and protect the children of South Carolina by raising the minimum sales age for tobacco, including e-cigarettes to 21," said Deen.
  • "Nationwide, increasing the age of sale of tobacco to 21 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," said Deen.

If South Carolina would increase funding for tobacco control programs, 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. Despite South Carolina receiving $238,200,000 from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, the state does not fund tobacco control efforts at levels 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. South Carolina 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 Deen.

Nearly seven out of 10 smokers want to quit, but tobacco use is a serious addiction and quitting can be difficult. 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. South Carolina lawmakers have a powerful opportunity to help smokers quit and reduce disparities in tobacco use by covering all quit smoking treatments in its Medicaid program.

  • "Covering quit smoking treatments in South Carolina 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 South Carolina residents and the economy," said Deen.

The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, and if South Carolina would pass a comprehensive smokefree law that eliminates smoking in all public places and workplaces, workers across the state would benefit. This health protection would benefit everyone and is especially critical for those who work in the service and manufacturing sectors who are often exposed to secondhand smoke daily.

  • "Opportunities for better health begin where people work, live and play, and a person should not have to be exposed to the dangers of secondhand smoke to put food on the table," said Deen.

"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 South Carolina 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 470-233-7030.

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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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