20 Years of Tobacco Control in the District of Columbia: New Report Shows Significant Progress, Need to Provide Funding for Tobacco Flavor Removal and Prevention and Cessation Programs

New report reveals the District tobacco control successes over past 20 years, and outlines path to end tobacco use and save lives

The American Lung Association’s 20th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, released today, reveals significant progress in the work to end tobacco use, but products like e-cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, create concern for losing another generation to nicotine addiction. The report finds that the District had mixed progress on passing policies to reduce and prevent tobacco use, including e-cigarettes.  

The “State of Tobacco Control” report evaluates state and federal policymakers on actions taken to eliminate tobacco use, the nation’s leading cause of preventable death. The report recommends proven-effective tobacco control laws and policies to save lives. The 2022 “State of Tobacco Control” reveals that the country has made substantial progress in advancing tobacco control policies over the past 20 years, including comprehensive smokefree laws in more states, increased tobacco taxes across the nation and more Americans with access to treatments to help them quit smoking through state Medicaid programs.  

In the last 20 years, District lawmakers have made significant strides to reduce tobacco use, like passing smokefree laws, raising tobacco taxes and passing legislation to remove all flavored tobacco products from the market, but, there is more work to be done. The adult smoking rate is 11.3% and the high school tobacco use rate is 17.2%.  

District of Columbia Grades 

“State of Tobacco Control” 2022 grades states and the District of Columbia in five areas that have been proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use and save lives. The District received the following grades:  

1. Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F 

2. Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade A 

3. Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade A 

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 noted the need for District policymakers to focus on providing funding to implement the law removing all flavored tobacco products from the market; and fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

 According to the 2021 National Youth Tobacco Survey, more than two million high school and middle school students use e-cigarettes, and over 80% 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 nearly 81% 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.   

“Kids follow the flavors, so making sure all flavored tobacco products in the District are off the market is key to ending youth tobacco use. We call on the Council to provide funding so that the law to remove all flavors across the District, including menthol, can take effect” said Casper. 

  The report also highlights the District’s need to increase funding for tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs. An investment in prevention is especially important given the ongoing youth vaping epidemic.  

“Despite receiving $63.1 million from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, the District only funds tobacco control efforts at 27.4% of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Lung Association believes the funds should 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,” said Casper. 

“Tobacco use remains our leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 790 lives each year,” said Aleks Casper, Director of Advocacy at the American Lung Association in the District. “And our progress on tobacco control policy has not been equal. We continue to see the unequal burden of tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke in communities experiencing health disparities.” 

Federal Grades Overview 

“State of Tobacco Control” 2022 also grades the federal government in five areas:  

1. Federal Government Regulation of Tobacco Products (2022 grade – D) 

2. Federal Coverage of Quit Smoking Treatments (2022 grade – D) 

3. Level of Federal Tobacco Taxes (2022 grade – F) 

4. Federal Mass Media Campaigns to Prevent and Reduce Tobacco Use (2022 grade – A) 

5. Federal Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 (2022 grade – I*) 

* The Incomplete grade is for the FDA being more than 18 months overdue in publishing the final Tobacco 21 regulations as required by statute. 

“In 2022, the District needs to redouble its efforts to pass the proven policies called for in ‘State of Tobacco Control’ to help end tobacco use. We cannot afford to wait 20 more years and allow another generation to suffer from tobacco-caused addiction, disease and death,” said Casper. 

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.  


For more information, contact:

Valerie Gleason
[email protected]

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