Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and in Arkansas. To address this enormous toll, the American Lung Association in Arkansas calls for the following actions to be taken by our elected officials:
- Maintain current level of funding for the state's tobacco prevention and cessation program, including the Arkansas Quitline;
- Strengthen and remove the current exemptions in the state's clean indoor air act to protect all workers in the state from secondhand smoke;
- Increase taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products.
Comprehensive tobacco prevention and control legislation was once again not a priority for the members of the Arkansas Legislature in 2017. This was evident by the lack of inclusion of active duty members of the military in the proposed legislation to raise the minimum sale age of tobacco products to 21. House Bill 1711 was unable to gain momentum to pass the House of Representatives. The Lung Association supports legislation increasing the minimum sale age of tobacco products to 21 that would apply to all individuals, including active duty members of the military, and designate compliance and enforcement procedures for the law. Along with other tobacco control partners, the Lung Association continued to advocate for strengthening the statewide smokefree air law to include all public places and workplaces, including bars and gaming facilities, and the use of electronic smoking devices.
The American Lung Association in Arkansas continues to serve as the lead agency for the statewide tobacco control coalition in 2017. The coalition provides support for local tobacco control efforts including; smokefree municipal policies, smokefree/tobacco-free workplace polices and smokefree multi-unit housing policies and implementation. In partnership with tobacco prevention partners, the American Lung Association in Arkansas continued to educate about the dangers of secondhand smoke exposure and the need for comprehensive smokefree policies at the local level.
In 2018, the American Lung Association in Arkansas will continue to educate state legislators about the benefits of comprehensive tobacco control policies and programs, including a comprehensive statewide smokefree law and maintained funding for the tobacco control program. In order to reduce the death and disease caused by tobacco use in Arkansas, state legislators will need to recognize the health and economic burden of tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke by enacting public health protections and investing in evidence-based tobacco prevention programs.