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

Maryland earns F grades in Tobacco Taxes and Tobacco Control Funding, Lung Association calls on state officials to increase tobacco taxes for all tobacco products in 2021 to save lives

Even amid the pandemic, tobacco use remains a serious public health threat. 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 “State of Tobacco Control” report from the American Lung Association grades federal and state efforts to reduce tobacco use and calls for meaningful policies that will prevent and reduce tobacco use and save lives. The report finds that Maryland had mixed progress on its efforts to reduce and prevent tobacco use, including e-cigarettes.

Tobacco use remains the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 480,000 lives every year. 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. To address this critical public health threat, “State of Tobacco Control” provides a roadmap for the federal and state policies needed to prevent and reduce tobacco use. 

This year’s 19th annual report finds that in 2021 Maryland has the opportunity to take action and pass policy to increase tobacco product taxes and funding for tobacco prevention and control programs in order to support public health and save lives in 2021. The need for Maryland 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 19th annual 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 Maryland, our adult smoking rate is 12.7% and our high school tobacco use rate is 27.4%. 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 Maryland to implement the proven measures outlined in ‘State of Tobacco Control’ to prevent and reduce tobacco use,” said American Lung Association Director of Advocacy Aleks Casper. 

The 19th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report grades states and the federal government on policies proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use, and finds that while Maryland has taken significant steps to reduce tobacco use, including providing access to cessation services, elected officials should do more to save lives and ensure all Maryland residents benefit from reductions in tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. This is especially the case during the pandemic. 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.

Maryland’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. Maryland 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 F
4.    Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade B
5.    NEW! Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products   - Grade F 

The American Lung Association encourages Maryland 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 overriding the veto to increase tobacco tax and increase much needed funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs which was passed by the General Assembly last year.

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. “To protect kids from a lifetime of nicotine addiction, the Lung Association in Maryland encourages the state to overturn the tax increase veto and increase cigarette taxes by $1.75 and increase much needed funding for tobacco control and prevention,” said Casper.

Additionally, an investment in prevention is especially important given the ongoing youth vaping epidemic. “Despite receiving $12,452,350 from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, Maryland only funds tobacco control efforts at 25.9% of the level recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  An override of the veto would increase Maryland’s tax and significantly increase funding for tobacco control by $8.2 million. The Lung Association believes the funds should be used to support the health of our communities, and to prevent tobacco use and help smokers quit, and not switch to e-cigarettes. These programs are also critical for helping to end tobacco-related health disparities” said Casper.

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 Maryland 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 Maryland to act and take this opportunity to achieve lasting reductions in tobacco-related death and disease,” 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 Valerie Gleason, American Lung Association at [email protected] or 717-971-1123. 

For more information, contact:

Valerie Gleason
717-971-1123
[email protected]

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