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Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and in Georgia. To address this enormous toll, the American Lung Association calls for the following actions to be taken by Georgia's elected officials:

  1. Increase tobacco control program funding;
  2. Increase the number of local comprehensive smokefree air laws; and
  3. Substantially increase the price of tobacco products, including electronic smoking devices.
Georgia continues to provide little state funding to programs to prevent and reduce tobacco use. Georgia's state tobacco prevention program and quitline run on less than $1 million in state funding compared to previous years when tobacco Master Settlement Agreement dollars first came into the state. Georgia ranks 49th compared to other states plus the District of Columbia in the amount of taxes levied on cigarettes. Ahead of only Virginia and Missouri, Georgia's cigarette tax is 37 cents per pack; the national state average is $1.78 per pack as of October 2018. Georgia has a growing population with increasing health needs. State leaders should strongly consider a tobacco tax increase as a source of funds to meet these challenges and reduce smoking rates.

The 2018 legislative session saw a marked increase in tobacco industry attempts to weaken Georgia's efforts to improve public health. Urged by the Lung Association and many public health advocates, the Georgia General Assembly voted down several bills introduced by tobacco industry allies. Senate Bill 418 and House Bill 948 would have preempted local governments from regulating tobacco products in any form. House Bill 877 sought to reduce tobacco taxes by 50 percent for potential future modified risk tobacco products if an order is issued by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. House Bill 835 aimed to provide special-event tobacco licenses at festivals and events at a measly $10.00 per permit.

Local elected officials took a leadership role in protecting workers and those frequenting public places from exposure to secondhand smoke. The city of Augusta passed a smokefree ordinance in June 2018 by a vote of 6 to 4, and the city of Canton expanded its smokefree ordinance to prohibit smoking in public areas in its downtown district. Work began in Atlanta and the city of Rome on comprehensive smokefree air ordinances in the winter of 2018.

The American Lung Association in Georgia will continue to push for increased tobacco taxes and increased funding levels for tobacco control programs as well as local smokefree ordinances in 2019.

The Georgia Legislature is overdue in increasing the state's 49th lowest in the nation cigarette tax. Also overdue are funding improvements for the state tobacco prevention program and Georgia's Quitline. These steps are proven to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, saving lives and money. The American Lung Association in Georgia and tobacco control supporters will continue to educate General Assembly members on the benefits of these actions

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