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

Vermont earns two failing grades, Lung Association calls on state officials to increase tobacco prevention and control funding and prohibit all flavored tobacco products in 2021 to end youth vaping an

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 save lives. The report finds that Vermont had mixed grades on its efforts to reduce and prevent tobacco use, earning two failing grades for tobacco prevention and control funding and for flavored tobacco products, with State the earning an A and two Bs in the remaining categories. 

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, “State of Tobacco Control” provides a roadmap for the federal and state policies needed to prevent and reduce tobacco use. 

“In Vermont, our high school tobacco use rate remains 28.2%. 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  Vermont to implement the proven measures outlined in ‘State of Tobacco Control’  to prevent and reduce tobacco use,” said American Lung Association Specialist for Health Promotions in Vermont, Alex Crimmin.

Vermont’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 and save lives. Vermont 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 B
  5. NEW! Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products   - Grade F 

The American Lung Association encourages Vermont 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, prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco, and increasing tobacco taxes. All three priorities reinforce the need for Vermont to take action to protect youth from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, as the youth vaping epidemic continues.  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 has added a new state grade calling for policies to end the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, flavored e-cigarettes and flavored cigars. Vermont earned an F grade in this category.

In 2019, about 8,000 kids began vaping every day – typically with flavored e-cigarettes – setting them up for a lifetime of addiction to nicotine. 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 tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke on Black and Brown communities. Menthol cigarettes remain a key vector for tobacco-related death and disease in Black communities, with nearly 85% of Black Americans who smoke using them. 

In addition to ending the sale of flavored tobacco products,  the report noted Vermont’s need for increased investment in tobacco prevention and control funding, which is especially important given the ongoing youth vaping epidemic. “Despite receiving over $99 million from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, Vermont only funds tobacco control efforts at 44.9% 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 Crimmin.

In addition, the report suggests raising tobacco taxes as a way to fund additional tobacco control and prevention programs and as an effective way to reduce tobacco use, among both low-income individuals and 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. “To protect kids from a lifetime of nicotine addiction, the Lung Association in Vermont encourages state legislators to increase cigarette taxes by a minimum of $1.00 per pack, equalized across all tobacco products,” said Crimmin.

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

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. 
 

For more information, contact:

Jennifer Solomon
(516) 680-8927
[email protected]

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