Utah has Mixed Record in Passing Policies to Reduce Tobacco Use, Save Lives, Finds New American Lung Association Report
2018 ‘State of Tobacco Control report encourages Utah lawmakers to pass Tobacco 21 law
(January 24, 2018) -
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The American Lung Association’s 2018 “State of Tobacco Control” report shows that Utah earned mixed marks for its tobacco policies. The 16th annual report, which grades states and the federal government on policies proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use, finds that while Utah has adopted comprehensive smokefree laws, elected officials must do more to save lives, including raise the minimum sales age for tobacco products to 21 and increase the state’s tobacco taxes.
“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 JoAnna Strother, regional director of public policy for the American Lung Association. “Tobacco use is a serious addiction, and the fact that eight percent of adults in Utah are current smokers highlights how much work remains to be done in our communities to prevent and reduce tobacco use.”
Utah’s mixed grades in this year’s “State of Tobacco Control” show that progress can be made, although more still must be done by Gov. Gary Herbert and the state legislature to decrease tobacco usage rates and save lives:
• Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
• Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws - Grade A
• Level of State Tobacco Taxes - Grade F
• Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco - Grade C
• Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade D
The American Lung Association in Utah calls on state policy makers to act on the following priority areas in 2018 to meet state goals:
• Tobacco is a highly addictive product, and close to 95 percent of smokers try their first cigarette by the age of 21. In 2017, the American Lung Association supported a bill that would raise the minimum age of sale for tobacco products from 19 to 21, but the legislation did not make it out of committee. Passing a similar bill will protect Utah youth from starting smoking. 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.
• There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, and last year the House of Representatives introduced legislation that would remove a sunset clause for several exemptions in Utah’s Clean Indoor Air Act. Thankfully, the bill did not pass, but the American Lung Association encourages the protection of smokefree policies.
• If Utah 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.
“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,” Strother said. “Utah elected officials must act to implement these proven policies, which will prevent tobacco-caused death and disease, and help keep our lungs healthy.”
About the American Lung Association in Utah
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 the newly redesigned website: Lung.org.