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 Wisconsin earned failing or near failing grades for its efforts to reduce and prevent tobacco use.
"Wisconsin's adult smoking rate is 16 percent, higher than the national average of 14 percent. Even more concerning, youth use of e-cigarettes and other nicotine products has skyrocketed, increasing 78 percent in just one year," said Dona Wininsky, Director, Advocacy, Grassroots and Patient Engagement for Wisconsin. caused the U.S. Surgeon General to declare e-cigarette use among young people an epidemic in an Advisory issued in December 2018. Additionally, the Wisconsin Health Department issued its own public health advisory in December.
Other states are addressing the problem by passing strong laws that prevent youth initiation and encourage smokers to quit. The national cigarette tax average has increased, many states are adding e-cigarettes to their smoke free air laws and several have raised the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21. Wisconsin has done none of these and in fact has not passed any significant legislation to combat tobacco use since the smoke free workplace law in 2009.
The 17th annual State of Tobacco Control report grades states and the federal government on policies proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use. In the 2019 report, Wisconsin earned the following grades:
Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – GradeF
Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws - GradeA
Level of State Tobacco Taxes - GradeD
Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco - GradeF
Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade F
The American Lung Association has asked Governor Evers to increase Tobacco Prevention and Control funding to 15 percent of the minimum level recommended by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The program is presently funded at $5.3 million/year, or less than 10 percent. It was reduced twice under the previous administration.
"If Wisconsin would increase funding for tobacco control programs, we would have a powerful opportunity to help further reduce and prevent tobacco use, including supporting populations that still use tobacco at higher rates and who have been targeted by the tobacco industry, and communities that presently have no local tobacco control resources. There are 11 such counties in Wisconsin.
"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 Wisconsin end their lack of action and take this opportunity to achieve lasting reductions in tobacco-related death and disease?" said Wininsky.
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 262-703-4840.
About the American Lung Association
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to champion clean air for all; to improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and to create a tobacco-free future. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.