OMAHA, Neb., NE | January 29, 2020
Today, the American Lung Association released the 18th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, which finds that in 2019 Nebraska earned mixed grades on its efforts to reduce and prevent tobacco use, including e-cigarettes. The Lung Association finds opportunities in 2020 for Nebraska officials to take action by increasing tobacco taxes, adding e-cigarettes to the smokefree law, and increasing funding for tobacco prevention and control programs 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 Nebraska 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 Nebraska, our smoking rates remain at 16%. 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 Nebraska needs to implement the proven measures to prevent and reduce tobacco use outlined in ‘State of Tobacco Control,’” said Erin Smith, health promotions specialist 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 elected officials should do more to ensure all Nebraska residents benefit from reductions in tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke.
- Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
- Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws - Grade A
- Level of State Tobacco Taxes - Grade F
- Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco - Grade D
- Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade F
The Lung Association encourages Nebraska 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, adding e-cigarettes to the smokefree law, and increasing funding for the state tobacco control program.
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% increase in the price of cigarettes reduces consumption by about 4% among adults and about 7% among youth.
“To protect kids from a lifetime of nicotine addiction, the Lung Association encourages Nebraska to increase cigarette taxes by $1.00 per pack and equalize the tax on other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes with its cigarette tax. These steps are critical to Nebraska as current tobacco use, including vaping, among youth is 16%,” said Smith.
The state of Nebraska 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 local lawmakers to amend the Nebraska smokefree law to include e-cigarettes. Fortunately, there is a bill currently in the legislature to address this issue.
An investment in prevention is especially important given the skyrocketing number of youth who are vaping.
“Despite Nebraska receiving $101 million from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, the state funds tobacco control efforts at only 17% of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The American Lung Association believes the funds should be used to support the health of our communities, to prevent tobacco use and help smokers quit, not switch,” said Smith.
One powerful tool to address the youth e-cigarette epidemic in Nebraska 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.
This year, 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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