HELENA, MT | 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 Montana earned mixed grades 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, Montana has the opportunity to take action and maintain tobacco prevention funding in order to support public health and save lives in 2020. The need for Montana 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 Montana, the high school tobacco use rate is 33.5%. 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 Montana 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 Montana has strong smokefree air laws, elected officials should do more to save lives and ensure all Montanans 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. Montana 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 F
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 Montana 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 maintaining funding for tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs. An investment in prevention is especially important given the ongoing youth vaping epidemic. “Despite receiving over $104 million from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, Montana only funds tobacco control efforts at 42.3% 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 Nyssen.
While the report doesn’t grade on local community policies, the American Lung Association applauds Missoula for restricting the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes and urges other communities to do the same. Good public health policies are often implemented at the local levels before being considered at the state level. 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. “Youth follow the flavors and ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products in Montana is key to ending the youth e-cigarette epidemic and youth tobacco use overall. We call on legislators in Montana to protect local jurisdictions to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol, 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 Montana 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 Montana to act and take this opportunity to achieve lasting reductions in tobacco-related death and disease,” said Nyssen.
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to champion clean air for all; to improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and to create a tobacco-free future. For more information about the American Lung Association, which has a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and is a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.
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