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

Kentucky earns mostly failing grades, Lung Association calls on state officials to repeal the state law prohibiting local tobacco control in 2021 to end youth vaping

Today, the American Lung Association released the 19th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, which reveals that Kentucky received mostly failing 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. 

This year’s report finds that in 2021 Kentucky can take action and adopt a new state law to allow city and county governments to regulate the use, display, sale and distribution of tobacco and vapor products in order to support public health. The need for Kentucky 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. 

“In Kentucky, our smoking rate remains at 23.6% and 26% 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 Kentucky to implement the proven measures outlined in ‘State of Tobacco Control’ to prevent and reduce tobacco use,” said Shannon Baker, 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.

Kentucky’ 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. Kentucky received the following grades: 

  • Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
  • Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade F
  • Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade F
  • Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade C
  • Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products   - Grade F

The Lung Association encourages Kentucky 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 pass legislation to allow local governments to adopt tobacco control ordinances they think are necessary to protect kids in their communities. Currently, Kentucky state law prohibits city and county government officials from passing any tobacco control laws other than smokefree.

“The proposed legislation does not mandate that local government officials take any specific action. It simply gives them the option to pass local laws based on the public health needs of their communities,” said Baker. “By repealing the current state law, local officials would be able to allow buffer zones between tobacco retailers and schools or playgrounds, as an example. Local laws can have a significant impact and can be enacted quickly to address growing public health issues like youth vaping.”

In addition, the report highlighted the need to restore funding for the state tobacco prevention and cessation program to $3.3 million. An investment in prevention is especially important given the ongoing youth vaping epidemic. 

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 Kentucky 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 Kentucky to act and take this opportunity to achieve lasting reductions in tobacco-related death and disease,” said Baker.  

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
[email protected]

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