'State of Tobacco Control' Report - Illinois Grades Improved, But State Must Move Forward on E-Cigarette, Flavored Tobacco Restrictions to Prioritize Public Health

Illinois earns 'F' Grades in Tobacco Prevention and Control Funding, Access to Cessation Services

Today, the American Lung Association released the 18th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, which finds that in 2019 Illinois had mixed progress on its efforts to reduce and prevent tobacco use, including e-cigarettes. The Lung Association finds opportunities in 2020 for Illinois officials to take action by increasing restrictions on e-cigarettes, increasing the funding for tobacco prevention and control program services, and ending sales of all flavored tobacco products in order to support public health and save lives in 2020.

This year’s “State of Tobacco Control” calls for proven tobacco control policies in light of the fact that the country’s youth vaping epidemic worsened in 2019. The need for Illinois to take action to protect youth from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, is more urgent than ever, with the youth vaping epidemic continuing its alarming rise to 27.5%. This is a staggering 135% increase in high school e-cigarette use in just the past two years, and close to three million more kids started vaping in that time period, setting them up for a lifetime of addiction.

“In Illinois, our smoking rate remains at 15.5%. Sadly, with the youth vaping epidemic still rising, we may have squandered an opportunity to make the current generation of kids the first tobacco-free generation. Tobacco use is a serious addiction and Illinois needs to implement the proven measures to prevent and reduce tobacco use outlined in ‘State of Tobacco Control,’” said Kristen Young, executive director for the Lung Association. 

The “State of Tobacco Control” report grades states and the federal government on policies proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use. The report finds that while Illinois has taken significant steps to reduce tobacco use, including passing Tobacco 21 and increasing tobacco taxes, elected officials should do more to ensure all Illinois residents benefit from reductions in tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke.

Illinois’ Grades:

  • Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
  • Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws - Grade A
  • Level of State Tobacco Taxes - Grade C
  • Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco - Grade F
  • Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade A

The Lung Association encourages Illinois 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 passing a law to include e-cigarettes in the Smoke Free Illinois Law and increasing funding for tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs.

The state of Illinois has a comprehensive smokefree law, however, it doesn’t currently include e-cigarettes. E-cigarette aerosol can pose a threat to our health. In fact, the Surgeon General warns e-cigarette emissions can contain harmful chemicals, including nicotine and volatile organic compounds. The Lung Association encourages state lawmakers to amend the Smoke Free Illinois law to include e-cigarettes. 

An investment in prevention is especially important given the skyrocketing number of youth who are vaping. 

“Despite Illinois receiving $1.2 billion from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, the state funds tobacco control efforts at only 9.7% of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Lung Association believe the funds should be used to support the health of our communities, and to prevent tobacco use and help smokers quit, not switch,” said Young.

One powerful tool to address the youth vaping epidemic is increasing the minimum age of sale for tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to 21. The U.S. Congress finished off 2019 with a huge victory passing a federal law to increase the national tobacco sales age to 21. This law will ensure that all states have a sales age of 21 in 2020. In 2019, Illinois was one of the 13 states that moved forward with increasing the tobacco sales age to 21 this year, an important victory in the fight to prevent youth tobacco use. 

However, Congress failed to pass legislation to eliminate all flavored tobacco products, making the need for state action to end the sale of all flavored products critical. Massachusetts took that historic step by prohibiting the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes in November 2019, becoming the first such state to do so. The Lung Association urges more states to follow Massachusetts’ lead and pass comprehensive laws eliminating flavored tobacco products in 2020.

The question remains, will 2020 be the year that public health is prioritized over tobacco product manufacturers so that another generation is spared the addiction to dangerous tobacco products? As the result of successful lawsuits filed by the American Lung Association and several public health partners, FDA will be required to take several important and long overdue actions to protect the public health from tobacco products in 2020. These include finalizing graphic warning labels on all cigarette packs by March 15, and requiring all e-cigarette, and most cigar, hookah, pipe and other manufacturers of deemed products to submit applications to FDA by May 12, 2020 to remain on the market in the U.S. 

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