American Lung Association Report Gives Pennsylvania Mostly Failing Grades for Tobacco Control Policies

American Lung Association report reveals best and worst states for tobacco control policies, outlines steps to reduce burden of tobacco in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is listed as among the states with the worst policies to prevent and reduce tobacco use, according to the American Lung Association’s 21st annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, released today. The state earned mostly failing grades on this year’s report but did show an improvement in access to cessation services moving from an ‘F’ to a ‘D’ grade.

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 22,010 Pennsylvania residents each year.

“Pennsylvania lags behind when it comes to tobacco control policies, and as a result, we have higher than average adult smoking rates at 14.4% and 26.7% of high school students use a tobacco product,” said Deborah Brown, Chief Mission Officer, at the American Lung Association. “This gives us an important opportunity to improve the health of our state through proven policies, such as preserving state funding for comprehensive tobacco prevention and control programs and closing the loopholes in the state’s Clean Indoor Act.”

While Pennsylvania’s grade for cessation services is slightly over the 2022 grade because of increases in coverage for the Medicaid population, the grade remains low and shows that there is room for improvement.  From improving health coverage of cessation services for state employees to increasing investments in the QuitLine, this year’s ‘State of Tobacco Control’ report shows that more can be done to help Pennsylvanian’s quit tobacco.  

Pennyslvania’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, Pennsylvania received the following grades: 
1.    Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
2.    Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade D
3.    Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade F
4.    Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade D
5.    Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products – Grade F 

This year’s report noted the need for Pennsylvania policymakers to focus on: 

Preserving state funding for tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs. An investment in prevention is especially important given the ongoing youth vaping epidemic. Despite receiving $1,591,600,000 from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, Pennsylvania only funds tobacco control efforts at 12.8% of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Lung Association urges legislators to at a minimum continue the current level funding of $1,591,600,000 as these tobacco settlement funds should be used to support the health of our communities, and to prevent tobacco use and help people quit, and not switch to e-cigarettes. These programs are also critical for helping to end tobacco-related health disparities. 

Improve Pennyslvania’s Smokefree Law. The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Pennsylvania legislators should address loopholes in the Clean Indoor Act to include making the prohibition of smoking in casinos permanent and protect more residents and visitors from exposure to secondhand smoke.  

Increasing tobacco taxes. 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, 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. Pennsylvania has not increased its tobacco tax since 2016 and should increase its tax by at least a $1.00 per pack and equalize rates across all tobacco products.

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.
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