Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and in the District of Columbia. To address this enormous toll, the American Lung Association calls for the following actions to be taken by the District of Columbia's elected officials:
- Fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs at the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC);
- Improve the city's Medicaid coverage for tobacco cessation treatments to be comprehensive and consistent across plans; and
- Restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol in the city.
During the 2018 session of the District of Columbia City Council, the Department of Health Cessation Fund Amendment Act of 2017 was placed and passed into the District's budget. This legislation was a triple win when it comes to preventing and reducing tobacco use as it increased the District of Columbia's cigarette tax by $2.00 per pack to $4.50 per pack, designated 10 percent of total revenue for tobacco control programs such as the Quitline, and allocated funding to implement legislation increasing the tobacco sales to 21 passed in the city council in 2016.
The implementation of Tobacco 21 legislation and the increased tobacco tax went into effect on October 1, 2018. This means the District's current cigarette tax is the highest in the country among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Even better, other tobacco product taxes, except for large cigars, automatically adjust to the cigarette tax rate creating parity in taxes between cigarettes and most other tobacco products. Funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs also increased by about $1 million for fiscal year 2019 as expected.
The American Lung Association in the District of Columbia will continue to educate lawmakers on the ongoing fight against tobacco in 2018. Our goal is to build champions within the DC City Council and a groundswell of advocates to advance our goals: fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs at CDC-recommended levels, improve the city's Medicaid coverage of tobacco cessation treatments and explore the possibility of prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products in the city
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