New Report Reveals Lack of Progress for Illinois Tobacco Control Efforts

Today, the American Lung Association in Illinois released the 2019 "State of Tobacco Control" report, which revealed failing grades on its efforts to reduce and prevent tobacco use. The lack of progress on tobacco control efforts is largely attributed to former Governor Bruce Rauner's veto of a law that would have raised the tobacco sales age to 21.

The 17th annual "State of Tobacco Control" report grades states and the federal government on policies proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use, and finds that elected officials must do more to save lives and ensure all Illinois residents benefit from reductions in tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke:

  • Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
  • Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws - Grade A
  • Level of State Tobacco Taxes - Grade F
  • Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco - Grade F
  • Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade F

The need for Illinois to take action to protect youth from tobacco is more urgent than ever, with youth e-cigarette use reaching epidemic levels due to a 78 percent increase in high school e-cigarette use from 2017 to 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey. This equals one million additional kids beginning to use e-cigarettes, placing their developing bodies and lungs at risk from the chemicals in e-cigarettes as well as a lifetime of addiction to a deadly product. This has caused the U.S. Surgeon General to declare e-cigarette use among young people an epidemic in an Advisory issued in December 2018.

"In Illinois, our smoking rates remain at 15.5 percent and tobacco use remains the state's leading cause of preventable death and disease, killing more than 18,000 people per year. We need to invest in proven measures to prevent and reduce tobacco use such as raising the legal sales age of tobacco products," said Kathy Drea from the Lung Association.

The American Lung Association encourages Illinois to fully fund tobacco control efforts at levels recommended by the CDC, and in particular, this year's report noted the need to focus on passing legislation to raise the legal sales age of tobacco products to 21, known as Tobacco 21. This law is a powerful tool to prevent and reduce youth tobacco use.

"Tobacco is a highly addictive product, and close to 95 percent of smokers try their first cigarette by the age of 21. Tobacco 21 would significantly reduce youth tobacco use, slow the e-cigarette epidemic and save thousands of lives," said Drea. "In the 2019 'State of Tobacco Control' report, we call for state legislators and Governor J.B. Pritzker to take action to protect the children of Illinois by raising the minimum sales age for tobacco, including e-cigarettes, to 21."

The 2019 "State of Tobacco Control" provides a blueprint that states and the federal government can follow to put in place proven policies that will have the greatest impact on reducing tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke in the U.S. The real question is: Will lawmakers in Illinois end their failure to act and take this opportunity to achieve lasting reductions in tobacco-related death and disease?

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