ANCHORAGE, AK | January 27, 2021
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 Alaska is doing better than many states on its efforts 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, “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 Alaska has the opportunity to take action by taxing electronic cigarettes in order to support public health and save lives. The need for Alaska 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. Youth vaping and tobacco use overall is largely driven by flavored tobacco products, and 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.
“In Alaska, our high school tobacco use rate is 33.7%. 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 Alaska to implement the proven measures outlined in ‘State of Tobacco Control’ to prevent and reduce tobacco use,” said Carrie Nyssen, Senior Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association.
The 19th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report grades states and the federal government on policies proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use, and finds that Alaska invests in tobacco prevention programs, elected officials can do more to save lives and ensure all Alaskans benefit from reductions in tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. This is especially the case during the pandemic. 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.
“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. Alaska received the following grades:
1. Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade A
2. Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade B
3. Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade D
4. Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade C
5. NEW! Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products - Grade F
The American Lung Association encourages Alaska to put in place all the public policies called for in “State of Tobacco Control.” This year’s report noted the need to focus on increasing tobacco taxes and taxing electronic cigarettes. One of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use, not only among low-income individuals but also for youth is to significantly increase the tax on all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. 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 encourages Alaska to increase cigarette taxes and equalize the tax on other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and cigars with its cigarette tax,” said Nyssen.
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 (2020 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 Alaska 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 Alaska to act and take this opportunity to achieve lasting reductions in tobacco-related death and disease,” said Nyssen.
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