New Lung Association Report: Ending Tobacco Use in Illinois Critical to Saving Lives, Especially during Pandemic

Lung Association calls on state officials to protect funding for tobacco control programs in 2021 to end tobacco use, youth vaping

Today, the American Lung Association released the 19th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, which reveals that Illinois received mixed grades for its efforts to reduce and prevent tobacco use, including e-cigarettes. This year’s report grades federal and state efforts to reduce tobacco use and calls for meaningful policies that will prevent and reduce tobacco use.

Even amid the pandemic, tobacco use remains a serious public health threat. Tobacco use is the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 480,000 lives every year. In addition to tobacco-related death and disease, smoking also increases the risk of the most severe impacts of COVID-19, making ending tobacco use more important than ever. Much like COVID-19, tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure disproportionately impacts certain communities, including communities of color, LGTBQ+ Americans and persons of lower income. 

This year’s report finds that in 2021 Illinois can continue to protect funding to critical state tobacco control programs in order to support public health and save lives. The need for Illinois to take action to protect youth from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, is more urgent than ever, with the youth vaping epidemic continuing. With 1 in 5 teens vaping, our children are becoming the next generation addicted to tobacco. Youth vaping and tobacco use overall is largely driven by flavored tobacco products, and our report has added a new state grade calling for policies to end the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, flavored e-cigarettes and flavored cigars.

“In Illinois, our smoking rate remains at 14.5%, and 19.9% of high school students use e-cigarettes. The surge in youth vaping combined with the fact that smoking increases the chance of severe COVID-19 symptoms, make it more important than ever for Illinois to implement the proven measures outlined in ‘State of Tobacco Control’  to prevent and reduce tobacco use,” said Kristina Hamilton, director of advocacy for the Lung Association.  

The report finds that elected officials should do more to save lives and ensure all residents benefit from reductions in tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. The report also explores the fact that tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure disproportionately impacts certain communities, including communities of color, LGBTQ+ Americans and persons of lower income, and outlines solutions to close this gap.


Illinois’s Grades 
“State of Tobacco Control” 2021 grades states and the District of Columbia in five areas that have been proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use and save lives. Illinois 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 C
  4. Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade D
  5. NEW! Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products   - Grade F

The Lung Association encourages Illinois to put in place all the public policies called for in “State of Tobacco Control.” In particular, this year’s report noted the need to focus on preserving funding for tobacco prevention programs and expanding Medicaid to cover cessation counseling. The Lung Association also plans to support Illinois House Bill 201, which would include electronic cigarettes in the Smoke-free Act to prevent their usage indoors. 

“E-cigarettes should be included in comprehensive smokefree laws. This health protection would benefit everyone, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Secondhand smoke should be deadly enough for states to go smokefree but allowing smoking or vaping indoors also compromises the use of masks and smokers can spread the virus when they exhale,” said Hamilton.

Federal Grades Overview
“State of Tobacco Control” 2021 also grades the federal government in five areas: 

  • Federal Government Regulation of Tobacco Products (2021 grade – D)
  • Federal Coverage of Quit Smoking Treatments (2021 grade – D)
  • Level of Federal Tobacco Taxes (2021 grade – F)
  • Federal Mass Media Campaigns to Prevent and Reduce Tobacco Use (2021 grade – A)
  • Federal Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 (2021 grade – A)

“’State of Tobacco Control’ 2021 provides an important roadmap on how states like Illinois 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. Because of COVID-19, we are all thinking more about lung health. Now is the time for lawmakers in Illinois to act and take this opportunity to achieve lasting reductions in tobacco-related death and disease,” said Hamilton.  

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 312-940-7001. 

For more information, contact:

Jill Dale
312-940-7001
[email protected]

Freedom From Smoking Clinic
, | Sep 29, 2021
Community Connections: The Path To Clean Air
, | Oct 06, 2021