American Lung Association 'State of Tobacco Control' Report Finds Virginia Failed Fourth Year in a Row; Must Do More to Prevent, Reduce Tobacco Use and Ultimately End the E-cigarette Epidemic
For the third year, the state also earned F grade in Minimum Age category; Lung Association calls on officials to increase the age of sale for all tobacco products--including e-cigarettes--to age 21 to save lives
(January 30, 2019) - RICHMOND, VA
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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 Virginia earned failing grades on its efforts to reduce and prevent tobacco use. The American Lung Association calls on Virginia officials to increase the age of sale for all tobacco product to 21 in order to save lives.
The need for Virginia 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 Virginia, our adult smoking rate remains at 16.4 percent while the high school smoking rate is 6.5 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's Lance Boucher, Eastern Division Senior Director, State Advocacy . "The report provides a roadmap on how to save lives, but much work remains to be done in communities across Virginia 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 elected officials must do more to save lives and ensure all Virginia 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 F
- Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade F
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 Virginia, 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 Virginia 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 Virginia's Governor and elected officials to take action and protect our children by raising the minimum sales age for tobacco, including e-cigarettes to 21."
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.
The American Lung Association also encourages Virginia to fully fund tobacco control efforts at levels recommended by the CDC. This year's report noted the need to also focus on increasing the cigarette excise tax by at least $1.00 per pack.
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 in Virginia encourages state officials to increase tobacco taxes. This step is critical to Virginia as current tobacco use among youth is 16.3 percent," said Boucher.
Finally, if Virginia would increase funding for tobacco control programs, the state 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 Virginia receiving 304.4 million dollars 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. Virginia 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 Boucher.
The Lung Association's "State of Tobacco Control" 2019 report 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 Virginia 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 717-503-3903.
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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