20th Annual ‘State of Tobacco Control’ Report Reveals Pennsylvania Still Lags Behind on Policies to Reduce Tobacco Use

New report reveals Ending Tobacco Use in Pennsylvania is Critical to Lung Health and Saving Lives

The American Lung Association’s 20th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, released today, reveals significant progress in the work to end tobacco use, but products like e-cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, create concern for losing another generation to nicotine addiction. The report finds that Pennsylvania earned failing grades on passing policies to reduce and prevent tobacco use, including e-cigarettes and secondhand smoke.  

The “State of Tobacco Control” report evaluates state and federal policymakers on actions taken to eliminate tobacco use, the nation’s leading cause of preventable death. The report recommends proven-effective tobacco control laws and policies to save lives. The 2022 “State of Tobacco Control” reveals that the country has made substantial progress in advancing tobacco control policies over the past 20 years, including comprehensive smokefree laws in more states, increased tobacco taxes across the nation and more Americans with access to treatments to help them quit smoking through state Medicaid programs.  

Here in Pennsylvania in the last 20 years, lawmakers have made some strides to reduce tobacco use, like maintaining the level funding for tobacco control programs and raising the tobacco sales age from 18 to 21; however, there is much more work to be done. The adult smoking rate is still 15.8%, and the high school tobacco use rate is 26.7%.  

“While we have seen some progress in Pennsylvania, tobacco use remains our leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 22,010 lives each year,” said Molly Pisciottano, Advocacy Director at the American Lung Association in Pennsylvania. “And our progress on tobacco control policy has not been equal. We continue to see the unequal burden of tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke in communities experiencing health disparities.” 

Pennsylvania’s Grades  

“State of Tobacco Control” 2022 grades states and the District of Columbia in five areas that have been proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use and save lives. 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 F 

5. Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products   - Grade F 

This year’s report noted the need for Pennsylvania policymakers 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 $16,001,000 from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, Pennsylvania only funds tobacco control efforts at 13.1% of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and only 4.5% of the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) funding. The Lung Association believes the 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,” said Pisciottano. 

The report also highlights the importance of the state passing a comprehensive smokefree law. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board required that all casinos re-open as smokefree, an important step during a crucial period for lung health. “The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke,” said Pisciottano. “It’s time that the Clean Indoor Air Act makes smokefree casinos a permanent law. Passing a comprehensive smokefree law that permanently eliminates smoking in all public places and workplaces, including restaurants, bars and casinos, would protect workers across the state from deadly secondhand smoke. E-cigarettes should also be included in comprehensive smokefree laws.” 

Pennsylvania earned an F Grade on flavored tobacco products. According to the 2021 National Youth Tobacco Survey, more than two million high school and middle school students use e-cigarettes, and over 80% of those kids use flavored e-cigarettes. In addition, menthol cigarettes continue to be the major cause of tobacco-related death and disease in Black communities, with nearly 81% of Black Americans who smoke using them. Ending the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol, will not only help end youth vaping, but will also help address the disproportionate impact of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars have on many communities, including Black Americans, LGBTQ+ Americans and youth.   

“Kids follow the flavors, so ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products in Pennsylvania is key to ending youth tobacco use. We call on legislators in Harrisburg to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol, across Pennsylvania,” said Pisciottano. 

“Covering quit smoking treatments in Pennsylvania is a win-win because it will not only help smokers quit and save lives, but it will also cut healthcare costs,” said Pisciottano. 

Federal Grades Overview 

1. “State of Tobacco Control” 2022 also grades the federal government in five areas:  

2. Federal Government Regulation of Tobacco Products (2022 grade – D) 

3. Federal Coverage of Quit Smoking Treatments (2022 grade – D) 

4. Level of Federal Tobacco Taxes (2022 grade – F) 

5. Federal Mass Media Campaigns to Prevent and Reduce Tobacco Use (2022 grade – A) 

Federal Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 (2022 grade – I*) 

* The Incomplete grade is for the FDA being more than 18 months overdue in publishing the final Tobacco 21 regulations as required by statute. 

“In 2022, Pennsylvania needs to redouble its efforts to pass the proven policies called for in ‘State of Tobacco Control’ to help end tobacco use. We cannot afford to wait 20 more years and allow another generation to suffer from tobacco-caused addiction, disease and death,” said Pisciottano. 

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 717-971-1123.  

 
 

For more information, contact:

Valerie Gleason
717-971-1123
[email protected]

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