Despite Mixed Grades, Connecticut is On the Right Track to Preventing and Reducing Tobacco Use, According to American Lung Association Report

American Lung Association report reveals best and worst states for tobacco control policies, outlines steps to reduce burden of tobacco in Connecticut
According to the American Lung Association’s 21st annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, released today, Connecticut is experiencing mixed progress on preventing and reducing tobacco use. The state’s grades, which include two F’s, indicate that more lives could be saved in Connecticut with stronger tobacco control polices. 

The “State of Tobacco Control” report evaluates state and federal policies on actions taken to eliminate tobacco use and recommends proven-effective tobacco control laws and policies to save lives. This is critical, as tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in America and takes the lives of 4,900 Connecticut residents each year.

“Last year, we were pleased to see the Connecticut legislature reestablish the Tobacco and Health Trust Fund, and after 5 years of zero funding they reintroduced language to allow up to $12 million invested annually on tobacco prevention and cessation programs,” said Ruth Canovi, Director of Advocacy at the American Lung Association in Connecticut. “This is critical progress, however, there are still too many Connecticut residents who are impacted by tobacco use, like the 28.7% of high school students who use tobacco.”

Connecticut’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 2023 report, Connecticut received the following grades: 
  1. Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
  2. Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade B
  3. Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade B
  4. Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade C
  5. Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products – Grade F 
This year’s report highlights Connecticut policymakers’ significant step to invest in tobacco control program and calls on these leaders to focus on sustaining and increasing funding for best practice, evidence-based tobacco prevention and cessation programs.  In 2023, Connecticut is on track to fund tobacco control efforts at 46.3% of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), after investing $0 in these life saving programs since FY2016.  While this is less than half of the CDC recommendation, this is a critical and meaningful opportunity to help prevent kids from getting hooked on these deadly products and helping Connecticut residents who are hooked to quit. Continued and increased tobacco prevention and cessation funding makes good sense for fiscal and public health.  The state receives $455M from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes and we were leaders in the recent case again e-cigarette company Juul. The Lung Association advocates for these funds to be used to support the health of our communities and to prevent tobacco use and help people quit, and not switch to e-cigarettes. These programs are also critical for helping to end tobacco-related health disparities. 

Connecticut earned a failing grade for flavored tobacco product policies, citing the State’s failure to pass comprehensive legislation ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. According to the 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey, more than 2.5 million high school and middle school students use e-cigarettes, and more 85% of those kids use flavored e-cigarettes. In addition, menthol cigarettes continue to be the major cause of tobacco-related death and disease in Black communities, with over 80% of Black Americans who smoke using them. Ending the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol, will not only help end youth vaping, but will also help address the disproportionate impact of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars have on many communities, including Black Americans, LGBTQ+ Americans and youth.  

The report also urges the State to pursue tax parity amongst all tobacco products. One of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use is to significantly increase the tax on all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Multiple studies have shown that every 10% increase in the price of cigarettes reduces consumption by about 4% among adults and about 7% among youth. Tax parity refers to an equivalent tax on all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes to ensure that an addition to one tobacco product isn’t simply swapped out for another.  

Federal Grades Overview
The report also grades the federal government on their efforts to eliminate tobacco use. This year, there were new steps taken by the government to prevent and reduce tobacco use, including proposed rules to end the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, Congress passing a law requiring the FDA to regulate tobacco products made with synthetic nicotine, and increased federal enforcement of the Tobacco Control Act. As a result of these steps forward, the federal government’s grade for “Federal Regulation of Tobacco Products” improved from a “D” grade last year, to a “C” grade in the 2023 report.

The 2023 “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
FDA is overdue in publishing the final Tobacco 21 regulations as required by statute, which is why it earns an “incomplete.”  

To learn more about this year’s “State of Tobacco Control” grades and take action, visit Lung.org/sotc.

Media Resources available by request: [email protected]
 
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