Youth Vaping, Flavored Tobacco Products Threaten Progress on Policies to Reduce Tobacco Use in Ohio

New report reveals Ohio tobacco control successes over past 20 years, and outlines path to end tobacco use and save lives

The American Lung Association’s 20th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, released today, finds that Ohio earned mixed grades on passing policies to reduce and prevent tobacco use, including e-cigarettes. 

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 also recommends proven-effective tobacco control laws and policies to save lives.

Here in Ohio, in the last 20 years, lawmakers have made significant strides to reduce tobacco use, such as raising the legal age to smoke to 21, however, there is more work to be done. In Ohio, the adult smoking rate is still 19.3%, and the high school tobacco use rate is 36.7%. 

“While we have seen considerable progress, tobacco use remains our leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 20,180 lives each year in Ohio,” said Ken Fletcher, Director of Advocacy at the Lung Association. “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.”

“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. Ohio received the following grades: 

Ohio’s Grades
1.    Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
2.    Strength of Smokefree Air Laws – Grade A
3.    Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade F
4.    Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade B
5.    Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products – Grade F

This year’s report noted the need for Ohio policymakers to focus on ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. 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 Ohio is key to ending youth tobacco use. We call on legislators in Columbus to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol, across Ohio,” said Ken Fletcher.

An investment in prevention is especially important given the ongoing youth vaping epidemic. 

“Despite receiving $1,267,300,000  from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, Ohio only funds tobacco control efforts at  13.1% of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 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 Ken Fletcher.

Federal Grades Overview
Nationally, the report 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.

“State of Tobacco Control” 2022 also grades the federal government in five areas: 
•    Federal Government Regulation of Tobacco Products (2022 grade – D)
•    Federal Coverage of Quit Smoking Treatments (2022 grade – D)
•    Level of Federal Tobacco Taxes (2022 grade – F)
•    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, Ohio needs to redouble their 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 Fletcher.

For more information, contact:

James A. Martinez
(312) 445-2501
[email protected]

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