New Report: Rhode Island Earns Poor Grades for Tobacco Control Policies; Experts Recommend Focus on Prevention and Control Program Funding and Tax Parity for Tobacco Products

American Lung Association “State of Tobacco Control” report releases Rhode Island grades for tobacco control policies, outlines steps to reduce burden of tobacco

Today, the American Lung Association released the 22nd annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, which finds that Rhode Island received one F, one D, one C, and two B grades for efforts to prevent and reduce tobacco use. This year’s report noted the need for Rhode Island policymakers to focus on increasing and protecting funding for the tobacco prevention and control program, establishing tax parity for all tobacco products, closing loopholes in smokefree air policies to include casinos, and ensuring that all FDA-approved cessation medication is accessible to those who need it.

The “State of Tobacco Control” report evaluates state and federal policies on actions taken to eliminate tobacco use and recommends proven-effective tobacco control laws and policies to save lives.

“Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in Rhode Island and across the country, and takes the lives of 1,780 Rhode Islanders each year. The tobacco industry will do anything to protect their profits at the expense of Rhode Island lives, so we must push forward in our efforts to prevent and reduce tobacco use,” said Daniel Fitzgerald, director of advocacy at the American Lung Association in Rhode Island. “In 2023, we had a lot of ‘almost’ wins for tobacco control, and this year, we aim to push some of those initiatives over the finish line. We are urging the state legislature to adequately fund tobacco control efforts at or above the CDC-recommended level and pass legislation to ensure all Rhode Islanders are protected from a lifetime of tobacco dependence and disease.”

Despite receiving $188.9M from tobacco taxes, Rhode Island only funds tobacco control efforts at 14.2% of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Lung Association urges Governor McKee and the legislature to increase funding for this critical program.  

In the 2024 session, the Lung Association also plans to revisit the successful hearings on legislation that would enable pharmacists to prescribe FDA-approved smoking cessation therapies. The pharmacist’s prescribing authority was passed in the House of Representatives but was never moved forward for a vote in the Senate. Additionally, the Lung Association plans to pursue a vote on legislation that would close a nearly 20-year-old loophole and make casinos smokefree. Dozens of casino employees shared their stories last year in hopes of successful passage, but neither Chamber held a vote before the session ended.

Fitzgerald concluded, “Closing the loophole in our smokefree air law to eliminate smoking in all public places and workplaces, including casinos, would protect workers across the state from deadly secondhand smoke.”

Rhode Island Grades 
The “State of Tobacco Control” report grades states and the District of Columbia in five areas that have been proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use and save lives. In the 2024 report, Rhode Island received the following grades: 

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

 
Federal Grades Overview
This year’s report focuses on recent federal actions, including President Biden’s failure to finalize rules to end the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, as well as FDA’s overdue review of all applications for e-cigarette products, including flavors that are popular among youth. Because of the delay on the federal rules to end the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, it is even more important for states to enact laws to end the sale of all flavored tobacco products. 

The 2024 “State of Tobacco Control” report grades the federal government in five areas: 

  • Federal Government Regulation of Tobacco Products – Grade C 
  • Federal Coverage of Quit Smoking Treatments – Grade D
  • Level of Federal Tobacco Taxes – Grade F
  • Federal Mass Media Campaigns to Prevent and Reduce Tobacco Use – Grade: A
  • Federal Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Incomplete*

*FDA remains grossly overdue in publishing the final Tobacco 21 regulations as required by statute, which is why it earns an “incomplete.”  

The Lung Association calls on the White House to urgently finalize rules to end the sales of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars in the U.S. to save lives now. Send an email to President Biden at Lung.org/Stop-Menthol to insist these rules be finalized urgently. To learn more about this year’s “State of Tobacco Control” grades and take action, visit Lung.org/sotc.

Get involved and help the mission of the American Lung Association. Fight For Air Climb in Providence is coming up on April 27, 2024 at the Omni Hotel. Learn more at FightForAirClimb.org/Providence
 

For more information, contact:

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

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