American Lung Association 'State of Tobacco Control' Report Highlights Opportunity for Washington to Prioritize Public Health over the Tobacco Industry by Removing all Flavored Tobacco Products fr

The Lung Association calls on state officials to pass comprehensive legislation to remove flavored tobacco products in 2020 to end tobacco use, youth vaping epidemic and save lives

The 18th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report grades states and the federal government on policies proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use, and finds that while the District has taken significant steps to reduce tobacco use, including having the highest cigarette tax in the country, the Council should do more to save lives and ensure all District residents benefit from reductions in tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke.

Washington, D.C. Grades:

Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F

Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws - Grade A

Level of State Tobacco Taxes - Grade A

Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco - Grade C

Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade A

The American Lung Association encourages the District 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:

Addressing youth tobacco use by removing all flavored tobacco products from the market.  The Council currently has a bill before them which would be a first step in addressing the youth e-cigarette epidemic.  The Flavored Electronic Smoking Device Prohibition Amendment Act of 2019 was introduced in September 2019.  However, in order for the Lung Association to support this legislation it must be amended to include all flavored tobacco products. “The Lung Association believes that an effective way to protect our youth is through a comprehensive policy measure that would include all flavors and all tobacco products, including but not limited to menthol cigarettes, cigars and smokeless product as we know youth are attracted to these products and use them at alarming rates,” said Casper. 

One powerful tool to address the youth vaping epidemic is increasing the minimum age of sale for tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to 21. The U.S. Congress finished off 2019 with a huge victory passing a federal law to increase the national tobacco sales age to 21. This law will ensure that all states have a sales age of 21 in 2020. In 2018, the District increased the tobacco sales age to 21, an important victory in the fight to prevent youth tobacco use. Virtually all adult smokers had their first cigarette before age 21, and most before the age of 18. 

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 the District to follow Massachusetts’ lead and pass a comprehensive law eliminating flavored tobacco products in 2020.

“State of Tobacco Control” 2020 provides an important roadmap on how Washington 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 the District to end their failure to act and take this opportunity to achieve lasting reductions in tobacco-related death and disease,” said Casper.

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 717-971-1123. 

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