American Lung Association 'State of Tobacco Control' Report Applauds Connecticut's Passage of Strong Tobacco 21 Policy While Highlighting the Continued Failure to Fund Tobacco Prevention Program

Connecticut's youth tobacco use rates remain high; Lung Association calls on state officials to restore funding to tobacco prevention and remove flavored tobacco products from the market in 2020

Tobacco use remains the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 480,000 lives every year. This year’s “State of Tobacco Control” report from the American Lung Association applauds lawmakers for passing an important bill in 2019 to raise the age of tobacco sales to 21, but also calls for proven additional tobacco control policies in light of the fact that the country’s youth vaping epidemic worsened in 2019. This public health epidemic is a result of states and the federal government’s failure to enact policies called for in the report such as increased tobacco taxes and stronger federal oversight of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. This year’s 18th annual report finds that in 2019 Connecticut had a strong victory with the passage of tobacco 21.  However our long history of underfunding prevention efforts and our continued inaction on clean indoor air laws leaves much room for improvement.  The American Lung Association urges Connecticut officials to continue the momentum of 2019 and restore state funding for tobacco prevention to which it currently contributes $0, in order to support public health and save lives in 2020.

The need for Connecticut to take additional action is more urgent than ever, with the youth vaping epidemic continuing its alarming rise to 27.5% or more than one in four high school students. This is a staggering 135% increase in high school e-cigarette use in just the past two years, and close to three million more kids started vaping in that time period, setting them up for a lifetime of addiction.

“In Connecticut, our high school tobacco use rate remains at 17.9%. Sadly, with the youth vaping epidemic still rising, we may have lost an opportunity to make the current generation of kids the first tobacco-free generation. Tobacco use is a serious addiction and Connecticut needs to continue working towards  proven measures to prevent and reduce tobacco use outlined in ‘State of Tobacco Control’,” said American Lung Association’s Director of Advocacy in Connecticut, Ruth Canovi.

The 18th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report grades states and the federal government on policies proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use. The report provides a roadmap for the next steps needed to save lives and ensure all Connecticut residents benefit from reductions in tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke.

Connecticut Grades:

  • Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
  • Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws - Grade C
  • Level of State Tobacco Taxes - Grade B
  • Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco - Grade D
  • Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade A

The American Lung Association encourages Connecticut to put in place all the public policies called for in “State of Tobacco Control,” and in particular, this year’s report noted the need to focus on increasing funding for tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs.  An investment in prevention is especially important given the skyrocketing number of youth who are vaping. “Despite Connecticut receiving $475 million from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, the state has contributed $0 to tobacco prevention efforts for the 5th year in a row.  That leaves the total funding level – supplied only by the federal government ¬– at just 7.1% of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The American Lung Association believe the funds should be used to support the health of our communities, and to prevent tobacco use and help smokers quit, not switch,” said Canovi.

An additional priority for the American Lung Association in Connecticut is the need to reinforce and close loopholes in Connecticut’s indoor smokefree air laws, which saw rollback attempts in 2019.  The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. There are still loopholes in the Connecticut law that leave people unprotected from secondhand smoke.  Connecticut was a leader when it passed a smokefree law early on, but it is time to modernize the law and protect everyone from the damage of secondhand smoke exposure.  

Connecticut was joined by 12 other states and the federal government in increasing the tobacco sales age to 21 in 2019.  However, Congress failed to pass legislation to eliminate all flavored tobacco products, making the need for state action to end the sale of all flavored products critical. Massachusetts took that historic step by prohibiting the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes in November 2019, becoming the first such state to do so. The Lung Association urges Connecticut and other states to follow Massachusetts’ lead and pass comprehensive laws eliminating flavored tobacco products in 2020.

“State of Tobacco Control” 2020 provides an important roadmap on how states like Connecticut and the federal government can put in place the policies proven to have the greatest impact on reducing tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. Now is the time for lawmakers in Connecticut to fund meaningful prevention and cessation programs and take this opportunity to achieve lasting reductions in tobacco-related death and disease,” said Canovi. 

The question remains, will 2020 be the year that public health is prioritized over tobacco product manufacturers so that another generation is spared the addiction to dangerous tobacco products? As the result of successful lawsuits filed by the American Lung Association and several public health partners, FDA will be required to take several important and long overdue actions to protect the public health from tobacco products in 2020. These include finalizing graphic warning labels on all cigarette packs by March 15, and requiring all e-cigarette, and most cigar, hookah, pipe and other manufacturers of deemed products to submit applications to FDA by May 12, 2020 to remain on the market in the U.S. 

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 516-680-8927

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