Vermont’s Mixed Grades Show Stalled Efforts to Save Lives, Reduce Tobacco Use, Finds New American Lung Association Report
2018 ‘State of Tobacco Control’ report finds Vermont lawmakers’ efforts to reduce tobacco use was largely unproductive in 2017 and faces possible regression in 2018
(January 24, 2018) - WILLISTON, Vt.
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The American Lung Association’s 2018 “State of Tobacco Control” shows Vermont earned mixed grades on its tobacco policies. The 16th annual report grades states and the federal government on policies proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use, and finds that Vermont was unable to move the ball on tobacco policy in 2017, and that elected officials must do more to save lives and ensure all Vermont residents benefit.
“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 Jeff Seyler, Executive Vice President of the American Lung Association, Northeast Region. “Tobacco use is a serious addiction, and the fact that 18 percent of adults and 24 percent of high school students in Vermont currently use tobacco highlights how much work remains to be done in our communities to prevent and reduce tobacco use.”
This year’s “State of Tobacco Control” finds Vermont’s grades show zero progress from last year and that Governor Scott and the state legislature must reprioritize tobacco control policies that will save lives:
- Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade D
- Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws - Grade A
- Level of State Tobacco Taxes - Grade B
- 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 in Vermont warns that 2018 could see a deterioration in grades, in regards to Governor Scott’s proposed cut to the Tobacco Evaluation and Review Board which oversees the independent evaluation of the tobacco control program. The final fiscal year 2018 budget included no appropriation for the Board. This cut threatens the future of the Board and ultimately, the effectiveness of the comprehensive tobacco control program.
Currently, Vermoney earned a “D” for its Prevention and Control Funding, even though the programs budget is less that 58 percent of the CDC recommended amount. By protecting or increasing funding for tobacco control programs, Vermont 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. Vermont receives $106.1 million from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, and should use more of these funds to help prevent tobacco use and help smokers quit. The American Lung Association has recommended a modest increase in state funding to $3.8 million from the current $3.5 million.
The Vermont State legislature also missed a critical opportunity this year to pass a bill raising the age of sale of tobacco products to 21 from 18. 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 Vermont, and one powerful tool is increasing the minimum age of sale for tobacco products to 21. 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.
On this front the legislature’s failure was met by local successes. The state health department, working with local tobacco control and prevention grantees, is addressing the smoking rate among young adults through the Vermont Tobacco-Free Colleges Initiative. Eighteen percent of Vermonters between the ages of 18 and 24 smoke. By the fall of 2019, the percent of college students covered by a tobacco-free college campus policy will increase from 34 percent to 76 percent, thanks to a resolution passed by the Vermont State College Chancellors. The resolution commits to making all five Vermont State College campuses tobacco-free by the fall of 2019.
Sadly, the report highlights that as a result of decades of targeted marketing by the tobacco industry, too many Americans haven’t seen the benefits of reduced smoking rates, and Vermont and the federal government could do more to ensure all Americans benefit from tobacco control efforts. According to the American Lung Association, there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, the American Lung Association in Vermont has prioritized legislation that would require landlords to disclose smoking policies in
building to prospective renters. This is especially critical for prospective tenants with existing respiratory conditions or risk factors for lung cancer and lung disease. A person should not have to be exposed to the dangers of secondhand smoke in their own living space.
“Vermont has been a leader on smokefree air policies, tobacco taxes and access to cessation services, but we are concerned that progress has come to a standstill,” said Rebecca Ryan, Senior Director, Health Education and Public Policy for the American Lung Association in Vermont. “We know how to reduce tobacco use in this country – and investments in Tobacco Prevention and Control, as well as legislation protecting our youths – are critical to our success. Vermont elected officials must act to implement proven policies, which will prevent tobacco-caused death and disease, and help keep our lungs healthy.”
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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