Idaho Lags Behind Nation in Policy Efforts to Prevent and Reduce Tobacco Use

Lung Association report reveals best and worst states for tobacco control policies, outlines steps to reduce burden of tobacco in Idaho
Idaho is listed as one of the states with weaker policies to prevent and reduce tobacco use, according to the American Lung Association’s 21st annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, released today.  While Idaho earns multiple failing grades in this year’s report, one bright spot is that, thanks to Medicaid expansion, more Idahoans have access to coverage for tobacco cessation medications and counseling support.

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 1,800 Idaho residents each year.

“Idaho lags behind when it comes to tobacco control policies, and as a result, we have higher than average adult smoking rates at 13.3% and 22.8% of high school students use a tobacco product,” said Heather Kimmel, Western Division Director of Health Promotions at the American Lung Association in Idaho. “This gives us an important opportunity to improve the health of our state through a proven and comprehensive approach which includes policies like increasing state funding to tobacco control programs, treating electronic smoking devices consistent with other commercial tobacco products in all areas under state law, increasing tobacco taxes, implementing tobacco retail licensure fees at a level that supports enforcement of the legal sale age, and enacting laws that protect all Idahoans from exposure to secondhand smoke.”

Idaho’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, Idaho 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

This year’s report noted the need for Idaho policymakers to focus on:
Addressing tobacco use through a comprehensive evidence-based approach.  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 and create parity among products.  Idaho’s tobacco taxes are among the lowest in the nation outside of the tobacco-growing states and should be increased as part of a comprehensive plan to address tobacco use.  Similarly, tobacco retail licensure fees should be set at a level that supports enforcement of the legal sale age.  Another critical element of a comprehensive approach is to pass a comprehensive smokefree law that eliminates smoking in all public places and workplaces, including restaurants, bars, and casinos to protect workers from deadly secondhand smoke.

Funding for tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs.  An investment in prevention is especially important given the ongoing youth vaping epidemic. Despite receiving $73,400,000 from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, Idaho only funds tobacco control efforts at 36% 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, to prevent tobacco use, and to help people quit and not switch to e-cigarettes. These programs are also critical for helping to end tobacco-related health disparities. 

 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.
For more information, contact:

Idaho Media Contact

[email protected]

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