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

Missouri earns F in Tobacco Prevention and Control Program Funding, Lung Association calls on state officials to pass funding increase to end tobacco use, youth vaping and 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 Missouri earned low to failing grades 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 Missouri has the opportunity to take action and prioritize increasing funding for Tobacco Prevention and Control Programs in order to support public health and save lives in 2021. The need for Missouri 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 Missouri, our adult smoking rate is 19.6% and the high school tobacco use rate is 24.8% 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 Missouri to implement the proven measures outlined in ‘State of Tobacco Control’ to prevent and reduce tobacco use,” said Leah Martin, Director of Advocacy, Tobacco Control for Missouri, as well as Kansas and Nebraska for the American Lung Association.

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 Missouri passed an increase in funding of $250,000 for tobacco prevention and control in 2020, pandemic-related budget shortfalls reduced funding to $50,000. During the 2021 session, elected officials should do more to save lives and ensure all Missouri 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.

Missouri 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. Missouri 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 D
  • NEW! Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products   - Grade F

The American Lung Association encourages Missouri 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 increasing funding for tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs.  An investment in prevention is especially important given the ongoing youth vaping epidemic. “Despite receiving $255,800,000 from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, Missouri only funds tobacco control efforts at 2.8% of the level recommended by the CDC. 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 Martin. 

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

For media interested in speaking with an expert about the “State of Tobacco Control” report, lung health, tobacco use and tobacco control policies, contact Diana Van Fleet at [email protected]
or 202-715-1863.

For more information, contact:

Diana Van Vleet
(202) 715-1863
[email protected]

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