AUGUSTA, ME | January 30, 2019
Tobacco use remains the nation's leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 480,000 lives every year. This year's "State of Tobacco Control" report from the American Lung Association finds Maine mixed progress on its efforts to reduce and prevent tobacco use. The American Lung Association congratulates Maine for enacting a law to raise the age of sale on tobacco products to 21 over the summer, but calls on Maine officials increase tobacco taxes and prevention and control program funding in order to save lives.
The need for Maine 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 results from 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 Maine, our adult tobacco use rate remain at over 21 percent, and our high school tobacco use rate is 22.5 percent.. The State made a significant step when it enacted Tobacco 21 this summer, but we must do more to invest in the proven measures to prevent and reduce tobacco use outlined in ‘State of Tobacco Control'," said Lance Boucher, Senior Division Director of State Public Policy for the American Lung Association in Maine. "The report provides a roadmap on how to save lives, but without increased prevention and control program funding and increased tobacco taxes, the lives of Mainer's will continue to be at risk for tobacco related death and disease."
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 while Maine has taken significant steps to reduce tobacco use, including enacting Tobacco 21, elected officials must do more to save lives and ensure all Maine 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 D
- Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco - Grade A
- Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade A
Despite having the most A grades in the Northeast, Maine's clear failure remains funding tobacco prevention and control efforts. In 2018, Maine reduced its funding for the programs by over $2.5 million from the previous two-year state budget. If Maine would increase funding for tobacco control programs, they would have a powerful opportunity to help further reduce and prevent tobacco use, including supporting communities that still use tobacco at higher rates and who have been targeted by the tobacco industry. An investment in prevention is especially important given the skyrocketing number of youth who are using e-cigarettes, and the over $811 million the state spends annually on healthcare costs due to smoking. While Maine receives over $188 million from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, the state only funds tobacco control efforts at 40 percent of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"This year marks the 20th anniversary of the largest legal settlement in U.S. history – the tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. Maine receives millions of dollars every year from this settlement, and we believe the funds should be used to support the health of our communities, and to help smokers quit and prevent tobacco use," said Boucher
In addition to increasing prevention and control funding, increasing tobacco taxes is one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use, not only among low-income individuals but also for youth. Multiple studies have shown that every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces consumption by about four percent among adults and about seven percent among youth.
Boucher concluded, "State of Tobacco Control" 2019 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 Maine finally take this opportunity to achieve lasting reductions in tobacco-related death and disease?"
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 516-680-8927.