Wisconsin Stuck in a Rut: Efforts to Reduce Tobacco Use Stall, Finds American Lung Association National Tobacco Report
New Grade Added to 2017 Report
(January 25, 2017) - BROOKFIELD, WI
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The American Lung Association’s “State of Tobacco Control” report has found that in 2016 Wisconsin did not advance any proven-effective policies that would save lives from tobacco use. The 15th annual report grades show that Wisconsin has failed to adequately fund tobacco prevention and control programming and has wildly varying tobacco tax rates from product to product.
The report added a new grade this year to indicate which states have increased the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21, a movement that is gaining momentum across the nation. Wisconsin’s legal age is still 18, earning the state an additional F. California and Hawaii have passed “T21” as have hundreds of local municipalities. Texas has introduced legislation; the bill sponsor is optimistic it will pass.
National data show that the vast majority of all adult smokers begin before age 21. “Close to 95 percent of adult smokers try their first cigarette before they’re 21,” said Linda Witucki, Executive Director of the American Lung Association in Wisconsin. “Increasing the minimum age of sale for tobacco products to 21 would significantly reduce Wisconsin’s youth tobacco use and save thousands of lives.”
Tobacco continues to be the leading cause of death and disease in the nation, and 18 percent of Wisconsin residents still smoke. “We know what works when it comes to preventing and reducing tobacco use. What we need is for Wisconsin lawmakers to move up to the next level by implementing the policies and programs called for in “State of Tobacco Control” that would save lives and protect kids from a lifetime of addiction, said Witucki.” “We’ve done some good work, but more is needed.”
The “State of Tobacco Control” report documents the progress and failures of the states and the federal government to address tobacco use, and the report assigns grades based on whether federal and state laws protect Americans from the enormous health toll tobacco use takes on lives and the economy.
Wisconsin’s grades have not changed since the implementation of the Smoke Free Air Law in 2010. While Wisconsinites breathe clean air, funding for education and prevention programs as well as support for people who want to quit remain at inadequate levels:
- Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
- Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws - Grade A
- Level of State Tobacco Taxes - Grade B
- Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco - Grade F
- Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade F*
“It’s not a secret how to reduce tobacco use in this country. 'State of Tobacco Control' looks at proven methods to save lives and prevent our children from becoming the next generation hooked on tobacco,” said Witucki. “Wisconsin’s elected officials must act to implement these proven policies that will save lives and prevent tobacco-caused death and disease.”
*New grade to the 2016 report.
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.