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

Massachusetts is the only state to earn an A grade for Flavored Tobacco, Lung Association calls on state officials to increase prevention and cessation funding in 2021 to end tobacco use, youth vaping

Even amid the pandemic, tobacco use remains a serious public health threat. 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 “State of Tobacco Control” report from the American Lung Association grades federal and state efforts to reduce tobacco use and calls for meaningful policies that will prevent and reduce tobacco use and save lives. The report finds that Massachusetts was the only state to earn an A grade for the new “Flavored Tobacco” category, but must increase efforts fund prevention and cessation programs to reduce and prevent tobacco use, including e-cigarettes.

Tobacco use remains the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 480,000 lives every year. Much like COVID-19, tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure disproportionately impacts certain communities, including communities of color, LGTBQ+ Americans and persons of lower income. To address this critical public health threat, which is especially important during the pandemic, “State of Tobacco Control” provides a roadmap for the federal and state policies needed to prevent and reduce tobacco use.

This year’s 19th annual report finds that in 2021 Massachusetts has cause to celebrate as it earned the only A grade in the nation for flavored tobacco. In 2020, the previously passed law making the Bay State the first in the nation to end the sale of all flavored tobacco products went into full effect.  This milestone legislation is important in protecting youth from tobacco use, including e-cigarettes, which has become an ever more urgent mission as the youth vaping epidemic continues nationally.  With 1 in 5 teens vaping, our children are becoming the next generation addicted to tobacco. Youth vaping  and  tobacco use overall is largely driven by flavored tobacco products, which is why our 19th annual report added a new state grade calling for more policies like Massachusetts’s - ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, flavored e-cigarettes and flavored cigars.

“In Massachusetts, we have a lot to celebrate with the enactment of a strong comprehensive flavored tobacco prohibition– but unfortunately it’s not all good news.  Our high school tobacco use rate remains at an alarming 37%. 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 Massachusetts to focus beyond the store shelves, and increase prevention and cessation funding, which is necessary to reach Bay Staters at all stages of tobacco addiction.  These are proven measures to prevent and reduce tobacco use,” said American Lung Association’s National Assistant Vice President for State Public Policy Michael Seilback.

Massachusetts 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 and save lives. Massachusetts received the following grades: 

  1. Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
  2. Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade A
  3. Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade B
  4. Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade C
  5. NEW! Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products   - Grade A

The American Lung Association encourages Massachusetts 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 focus on increasing funding for tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs.  An investment in prevention is especially important given the ongoing youth vaping epidemic. “Despite receiving $739 million from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, Massachusetts only funds tobacco control efforts at 10.4% of the level recommended by the CDC. The Lung Association believes the funds should be used to support the health of our communities, and to prevent tobacco use and help smokers quit, and not switch to e-cigarettes. These programs are also critical for helping to end tobacco-related health disparities.” said Seilback.

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 Massachusetts 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 Massachusetts to act and take this opportunity to achieve lasting reductions in tobacco-related death and disease,” said Seilback. 

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. 

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