New Report: Arkansas Lags Behind Nation in Tobacco Control Policies; Experts Recommend Focus on Increasing Cessation Program Funding to Save Lives

Arkansas lags behind country in 22nd annual “State of Tobacco Control” report; American Lung Association outlines steps to reduce burden of tobacco use

A new report from the American Lung Association, released today, urges Arkansas lawmakers to focus on restrictions on flavored tobacco reduce the burden of tobacco use. The 2024 “State of Tobacco Control” report, now in its 22nd year, evaluates state and federal policies on actions taken to eliminate tobacco use and recommends proven-effective tobacco control laws and policies to save lives. Arkansas received three “F” grades and two “C” grades for policies to improve statewide efforts to prevent and reduce tobacco use.

“Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Arkansas and across the country, claiming the lives of 5,790 state residents each year,” said Laura Turner, director of advocacy, Arkansas at the American Lung Association. “The tobacco industry will do anything to protect their profits at the expense of Arkansas lives, so we must push forward in our efforts to prevent and reduce tobacco use.”

Turner added: “This year, we are working with state policymakers to focus on increasing funding for tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs. Despite receiving $9,000,000 from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, Arkansas only funds tobacco control efforts at 27.5 percent of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Lung Association urges Governor Sanders and the legislature to increase funding for the critical Arkansas Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program.”

The Arkansas Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program provides a wealth of cessation services such as nicotine replacement therapy and cessation counseling through Be Well Arkansas, as well as cessation services tailored to pregnant individuals, youth tobacco and vaping prevention resources and other health management resources.

Arkansas’s Grades

The “State of Tobacco Control” report grades states and the District of Columbia in five areas that have been proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use and save lives. In the 2024 report, Arkansas received the following grades:

  1. Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F*
  2. Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade C
  3. Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade F
  4. Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade C
  5. Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products – Grade F

Medicaid coverage to tobacco cessation plays an important role in the “Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco” grade. Since May 2023, more than 427,000 people in Arkansas have lost healthcare coverage due to the state’s unwinding of the COVID-19 continuous Medicaid coverage protections. Procedural or paperwork reasons, not eligibility, led to loss of coverage for 77 percent of people. Although nearly 298,000 Arkansans have regained coverage, there are still a significant number of people who are eligible and have yet to be re-enrolled in Medicaid coverage.

This major loss of access to healthcare coverage in 2023 has resulted in less access to cessation coverage for many Arkansas throughout the year. The American Lung Association continues to call on Arkansas to implement all available flexibilities that will make it easier for those eligible for Medicaid to re-enroll and stay enrolled as long as they remain eligible.

To address the toll of tobacco use in Arkansas, the Lung Association calls for the following actions to be taken by local elected officials:

  1. Ensure continued access to tobacco use treatment services for all those who want to quit smoking, including comprehensive coverage for such services under Medicaid;
  2. Repeal state preemption of local tobacco control authority; and
  3. Allocate state funding of $14.6 million for the Arkansas Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program and ensure that funding is spent according to CDC’s Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs.

Federal Grades Overview

This year’s report focuses on recent federal actions, including President Biden’s failure to finalize rules to end the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, as well as FDA’s overdue review of all applications for e-cigarette products, including flavors that are popular among youth. Because of the delay on the federal rules to end the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, it is even more important for states to enact laws to end the sale of all flavored tobacco products.

The 2024 “State of Tobacco Control” report grades the federal government in five areas:

  • Federal Government Regulation of Tobacco Products – Grade C
  • Federal Coverage of Quit Smoking Treatments – Grade D
  • Level of Federal Tobacco Taxes – Grade F
  • Federal Mass Media Campaigns to Prevent and Reduce Tobacco Use – Grade: A
  • Federal Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Incomplete**

The Lung Association calls on the White House to urgently finalize rules to end the sales of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars in the U.S. to save lives now. Send an email to President Biden at Lung.org/Stop-Menthol to insist these rules be finalized urgently. To learn more about this year’s “State of Tobacco Control” grades and take action, visit Lung.org/sotc.

*State Funding for Tobacco Prevention Programs grades in “State of Tobacco Control” reflect actions taken by elected officials and do not reflect on the hard work of state tobacco control programs or advocates.

**FDA remains grossly overdue in publishing the final Tobacco 21 regulations as required by statute, which is why it earns an “incomplete.” 

For more information, contact:

Victoria O'Neill
(312) 273-5890
[email protected]

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