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

Alabama earns all failing grades, Lung Association calls on state officials to increase regulations on e-cigarettes in 2021 to end tobacco use, youth vaping

Today, the American Lung Association released the 19th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, which reveals that Alabama received all failing grades for its efforts to reduce and prevent tobacco use, including e-cigarettes. This year’s report grades federal and state efforts to reduce tobacco use and calls for meaningful policies that will prevent and reduce tobacco use and save lives.

Even amid the pandemic, tobacco use remains a serious public health threat. Tobacco use is the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 480,000 lives every year. 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. 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. 

This year’s report finds that in 2021 Alabama can take action to ensure strong regulations of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, in order to support public health. The need for Alabama 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 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 Alabama, our smoking rate remains at 20% and 19% of high schoolers in the state use e-cigarettes. 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 Alabama to implement the proven measures outlined in ‘State of Tobacco Control’  to prevent and reduce tobacco use,” said Ashley Lyerly, director of advocacy for the Lung Association.  

The report finds that elected officials should do more to save lives and ensure all residents benefit from reductions in tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. 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.

Alabama’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. Alabama received the following grades: 

  • Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
  • Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade F
  • Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade F
  • Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade F
  • NEW! Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products   - Grade F

The Lung Association encourages Alabama 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 increased regulations of tobacco products, including defining e-cigarettes as tobacco products and passing comprehensive tobacco retail licensing. Creating a clear definition of tobacco products will establish a level playing field for all tobacco products in Alabama. This will help the state more effectively enforce, educate, and monitor the sales of tobacco products. 

In addition, the report highlighted a need to increase funding for tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs in Alabama. An investment in prevention is especially important given the ongoing youth vaping epidemic. 

“Despite receiving $289 million from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, Alabama only funds tobacco control efforts at 5.6% 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 Lyerly.

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

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 312-940-7001. 

For more information, contact:

Jill Dale
312-940-7001
[email protected]

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