American Lung Association 'State of Tobacco Control' Report Highlights Vermont's Failure to Sufficiently Fund Tobacco Prevention and Control Program

Lung Association calls on state officials to prioritize public health over the tobacco industry in 2020 to end tobacco use, youth vaping epidemic and save lives

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 calls for proven tobacco control policies in light of the fact that the country’s youth vaping epidemic worsened in 2019. This dire situation 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 Vermont had mixed progress on its efforts to reduce and prevent tobacco use.  The state scored a failing grade for inadequately funding the Tobacco Control and Prevention Program, down from a D the in the 2019 report, but it scored an A grade in the minimum age category (up from an F in 2019) for being one of 13 states that increased the tobacco sales age to 21 this year.

The need for Vermont to take action to protect youth from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, 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 Vermont, our high school tobacco use rate remains at 18.9%. 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 Vermont needs to implement the proven measures to prevent and reduce tobacco use outlined in ‘State of Tobacco Control’,” said American Lung Association Director of Advocacy in Vermont, Elizabeth Hamlin.

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 celebrated an unprecedented year for tobacco policy Vermont, during which the state raised the legal age of sale, prohibited online sales of electronic cigarettes, equalized the tax on all tobacco products including e-cigarettes, and became the first state to prohibit internet sales of tobacco paraphernalia. The report also outlines gaps in the state’s progress and urges elected officials to do more to save lives and ensure all Vermont residents benefit from reductions in tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke.

Vermont Grades:

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

The American Lung Association encourages Vermont 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 Vermont receiving $99.8 million from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, the state funds tobacco control efforts at only 46% 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 tobacco for good,” said Hamlin.

The report also called on the State of Vermont to remove all flavored tobacco products from the market, including menthol cigarettes, as a vital component of a modernized approach to tobacco control.  While both the State of Vermont and the U.S. Congress successfully passed laws to increase the tobacco sales age to 21, both also failed to pass legislation to eliminate all flavored tobacco products, an important tool to reduce youth use. In Vermont, Senator Ginny Lyons has shown leadership on the issue by announcing a bill to eliminate all flavored tobacco products to be voted on this legislative session, citing the impact on youth tobacco use rates, marketing to the African American community and healthcare costs.  According to PACE Vermont, 23% of cigarette smokers report their first cigarette was flavored and 86% of people vaping report that they first used a flavored electronic cigarette.  If passed, Vermont stands to be among the first to follow Massachusetts, which was the first to end the sale of all flavored tobacco products in November 2019. 

“State of Tobacco Control” 2020 provides an important roadmap on how states like Vermont 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 Vermont to expand their efforts and take this opportunity to achieve lasting reductions in tobacco-related death and disease,” said Hamlin. 

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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