American Lung Association 'State of Tobacco Control' Report: Alaska Must Prioritize Public Health over the Tobacco Industry in 2020

Alaska earns mixed grades in tobacco control report, Lung Association calls on state officials to increase tobacco taxes and support Medicaid expansion 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 policies called for in the report such as supporting tobacco cessation services and stronger federal oversight of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. 

This year’s 18th annual report finds Alaska earned mixed grades on its efforts 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 Alaska officials to tax e-cigarettes, increase tobacco taxes, and support Medicaid expansion to save lives.

The need for Alaska 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 Alaska alone, there are more than 100,000 current smokers,” said Marge Stoneking, Executive Director for the American Lung Association in Alaska. “And with the youth vaping epidemic still rising across the nation and current youth rates not yet available for Alaska, we must grow more vigilant to ensure more education and key policy changes. Any tobacco use can cause serious addiction especially among youth, and Alaska must prevent and reduce tobacco use.”

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

Alaska’s Grades:

Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade A

Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws - Grade B

Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade D

Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco - Grade C

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

The American Lung Association encourages Alaska to put in place all the public policies called for in “State of Tobacco Control,” and this year’s report noted the need 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, Alaska must increase tobacco taxes and equalize the tax on other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes with its cigarette tax.

Additionally, Alaska must continue to protect and champion Medicaid expansion. Medicaid offers crucial tobacco cessation benefits and can help save lives and health costs.

“State of Tobacco Control” 2020 provides an important roadmap on how states like Alaska 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. 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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