20 Years of Tobacco Control in Arkansas: New Report Shows Opportunity, Need to Continue Tobacco Cessation Services

New report reveals Arkansas tobacco control successes over past 20 years, and outlines path to end tobacco use and save lives

The American Lung Association’s 20th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, released today, reveals significant progress in the work to end tobacco use, but products like e-cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, create concern for losing another generation to nicotine addiction. The report finds that Arkansas had minimal progress on passing policies to reduce and prevent tobacco use, including e-cigarettes. 

The “State of Tobacco Control” report evaluates state and federal policymakers on actions taken to eliminate tobacco use, the nation’s leading cause of preventable death. The report recommends proven-effective tobacco control laws and policies to save lives. The 2022 “State of Tobacco Control” reveals that the country has made substantial progress in advancing tobacco control policies over the past 20 years, including comprehensive smokefree laws in more states, increased tobacco taxes across the nation and more Americans with access to treatments to help them quit smoking through state Medicaid programs. 

Here in Arkansas in the last 20 years, lawmakers have made strides to reduce tobacco use however, there is more work to be done. The smoking rate is still 20.5%, and the high school tobacco use rate is 26.3%. 

“While we have seen some progress in Arkansas, tobacco use remains our leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 5,790 lives each year,” said Laura Turner, Senior Manager of Advocacy at the American Lung Association in Arkansas. “And our progress on tobacco control policy has not been equal. We continue to see the unequal burden of tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke in communities experiencing health disparities.”

Arkansas’s Grades 
“State of Tobacco Control” 2022 grades states and the District of Columbia in five areas that have been proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use and save lives. Arkansas received the following grades: 
1.    Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
2.    Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade C
3.    Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade F
4.    Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade D
5.    Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products   - Grade F 

“This year’s report noted the need for Arkansas policymakers to focus on two major areas: 

First, protecting funding for tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs. An investment in prevention is especially important given the ongoing youth vaping epidemic. 

Second, covering and providing U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved quit smoking treatments for state residents. Nearly seven out of 10 smokers want to quit, but nicotine is highly addictive. Quitting is difficult and despite the high number of smokers that want to quit, only about 10% of them currently do. Arkansas lawmakers can help residents quit tobacco by covering all quit smoking treatments in its Medicaid program, and for state employees. This should include access to all seven FDA-approved tobacco cessation medications and all three forms of counseling without barriers, such as copays and prior authorization. It’s also essential to increase the reach of the Arkansas Quitline or phone counseling service to help tobacco users quit.

“Covering quit smoking treatments in Arkansas is a win-win because it will not only help smokers quit and save lives, but it will also cut healthcare costs,” said Turner. 

Federal Grades Overview
“State of Tobacco Control” 2022 also grades the federal government in five areas: 
⦁    Federal Government Regulation of Tobacco Products (2022 grade – D)
⦁    Federal Coverage of Quit Smoking Treatments (2022 grade – D)
⦁    Level of Federal Tobacco Taxes (2022 grade – F)
⦁    Federal Mass Media Campaigns to Prevent and Reduce Tobacco Use (2022 grade – A)
⦁    Federal Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 (2022 grade – I*)

* The Incomplete grade is for the FDA being more than 18 months overdue in publishing the final Tobacco 21 regulations as required by statute.

“In 2022, Arkansas needs to redouble its efforts to pass the proven policies called for in 'State of Tobacco Control' to help end tobacco use. We cannot afford to wait 20 more years and allow another generation to suffer from tobacco-caused addiction, disease and death,” said Turner.

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 704-818-4138. 

For more information, contact:

Jill Smith
[email protected]

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