American Lung Association 'State of Tobacco Control' Report: Oregon has Opportunity to Prioritize Public Health over the Tobacco Industry in 2020

Oregon earns failing grades in tobacco control report, Lung Association urges raising tobacco taxes to save lives

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 direct result of states’ and the federal government’s failure to enact evidenced-based policies outlined 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 Oregon earned failing grades on its policies to reduce and prevent tobacco use, including e-cigarettes. Tobacco use remains the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 480,000 lives every year. The American Lung Association calls on Oregon legislators to clear the market of flavors and urges Oregon to raise tobacco taxes.

The need for Oregon 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 percent or more than one in four high school students. This is a staggering 135 percent 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 Oregon alone, there are nearly half a million current smokers,” said Carrie Nyssen, senior director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Oregon. “And with the youth vaping epidemic still rising, we may have squandered an opportunity to make the current generation of kids the first tobacco-free generation. Tobacco use is a serious addiction, and Oregon can and should do more.

The 18th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report grades states and the federal government on policies proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use.

Oregon’s Grades:

Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F

Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws - Grade A

Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade F

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 Oregon to implement all the public policies called for in “State of Tobacco Control,” and this year’s report noted the need to focus on increasing tobacco taxes. 

One of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use is to increase the tax on all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Multiple studies have shown that every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces consumption by about four percent among adults and about seven percent among youth. To protect kids from a lifetime of nicotine addiction, Oregon should increase cigarette taxes by $2 a pack,  equalize the tax on other tobacco products, and implement a tax on electronic cigarettes. Unlike combustible cigarettes, electronic cigarettes are not taxed in Oregon.  

And since Congress failed to pass legislation to eliminate all flavored tobacco products, the need for state action to end the sale of all flavored products is 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 Oregon 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 Oregon 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 Oregon to take this opportunity to achieve lasting reductions in tobacco-related death and disease,” said Nyssen. 

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 206-512-3292. 

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