LITTLE ROCK, Ark. , AK | January 29, 2020
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 Arkansas had mixed progress on its efforts to reduce and prevent tobacco use, including e-cigarettes. The American Lung Association finds opportunities in 2020 for Arkansas officials to take action and equalize taxes on all tobacco products including e-cigarettes in order to support public health and save lives in 2020.
The need for Arkansas to act 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 Arkansas, our tobacco use rate remains at 31.4 percent. 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 Arkansas 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, Shannon Baker.
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 Arkansas has taken significant steps to reduce tobacco use, including increasing the minimum sale age for tobacco products to 21, elected officials should do more to save lives and ensure all Arkansas residents benefit from reductions in tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke.
• Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
• Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws - Grade C
• Level of State Tobacco Taxes - Grade F
• Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco - Grade F
• Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade C
The American Lung Association encourages Arkansas to put in place 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 and equalize taxes on all tobacco products including e-cigarettes.
One of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use, not only among low-income individuals but also for youth is to significantly 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, the Lung Association encourages Arkansas to increase cigarette taxes by at least $1.00 per pack and equalize the tax on other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes with its cigarette tax. These steps are critical to Arkansas as current tobacco use, including vaping, among youth is 26.3 percent,” said Baker.
“State of Tobacco Control” 2020 provides an important roadmap on how states like Arkansas 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 Arkansas end their failure to act and take this opportunity to achieve lasting reductions in tobacco-related death and disease,” said Baker.
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?
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 470-233-7030.
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