New Lung Association Report: Ending Tobacco Use in Tennessee Critical to Saving Lives, Especially during Pandemic

Tennessee earns mostly failing grades, Lung Association calls on state officials to increase the state tobacco tax, including e-cigarettes in 2021 to end youth vaping

Today, the American Lung Association released the 19th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, which reveals that Tennessee received mostly failing grades for its efforts to reduce and prevent tobacco use, including e-cigarettes. This year’s report grades federal and state efforts to reduce tobacco use and calls for meaningful policies that will prevent and reduce tobacco use.

Even amid the pandemic, tobacco use remains a serious public health threat. Tobacco use is the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 480,000 lives every year. In addition to tobacco-related death and disease, smoking also increases the risk of the most severe impacts of COVID-19, making ending tobacco use more important than ever.

This year’s report finds that in 2021 Tennessee can take action by increasing the state tax on cigarettes and equalizing the tax rate on all tobacco products including e-cigarettes in order to support public health. The need for Tennessee to take action to protect youth from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, is more urgent than ever, with the youth vaping epidemic continuing. With 1 in 5 teens vaping, our children are becoming the next generation addicted to tobacco.

“In Tennessee, our smoking rate remains at 19.9% and 22.1% of high school students use e-cigarettes. The surge in youth vaping combined with the fact that smoking increases the chance of severe COVID-19 symptoms, make it more important than ever for Tennessee to implement the proven measures outlined in ‘State of Tobacco Control’ to prevent and reduce tobacco use,” said Shannon Baker, director of advocacy for the Lung Association.  

The report finds that elected officials should do more to save lives and ensure all residents benefit from reductions in tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. The report also explores the fact that tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure disproportionately impacts certain communities, including communities of color, LGBTQ+ Americans and persons of lower income, and outlines solutions to close this gap.

Tennessee’s Grades
“State of Tobacco Control” 2021 grades states and the District of Columbia in five areas that have been proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use. Tennessee received the following grades:

  • Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
  • Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade D
  • Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade F
  • Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade F
  • Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products – Grade F

The Lung Association encourages Tennessee to put in place all the public policies called for in “State of Tobacco Control.” In particular, this year’s report noted the need to pass legislation to increase the state tax on all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Increasing taxes on cigarettes is a win-win proposition: significantly increasing cigarette taxes results in fewer kids starting to smoke, and in more adults quitting while at the same time providing substantial revenue to fund important health, as well as tobacco prevention programs. Every 10% increase in the price of cigarettes reduces consumption by about 4% among adults and about 7% among youth.”

In addition, the report highlighted the need to restore funding for the state tobacco prevention and cessation program to $2 million. An investment in prevention is especially important given the ongoing youth vaping epidemic.

Federal Grades Overview
“State of Tobacco Control” 2021 also grades the federal government in five areas:

  • Federal Government Regulation of Tobacco Products (2021 grade – D)
  • Federal Coverage of Quit Smoking Treatments (2021 grade – D)
  • Level of Federal Tobacco Taxes (2021 grade – F)
  • Federal Mass Media Campaigns to Prevent and Reduce Tobacco Use (2021 grade – A)
  • Federal Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 (2021 grade – A)

“’State of Tobacco Control’ 2021 provides an important roadmap on how states like Tennessee and the federal government can put in place the policies proven to have the greatest impact on reducing tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. Because of COVID-19, we are all thinking more about lung health. Now is the time for lawmakers in Tennessee to act and take this opportunity to achieve lasting reductions in tobacco-related death and disease,” said Baker.  

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 312-940-7001.

For more information, contact:

Jill Dale
312-940-7001
[email protected]

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