20th Annual ‘State of Tobacco Control’ Report Highlights Rhode Island’s Repeated Failure to Adequately Fund Tobacco Control Program and Protect Youth from Flavored Tobacco Products

New report reveals Rhode Island tobacco policy successes over past 20 years, and outlines path to end tobacco use and save lives

The American Lung Association’s 20th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, released today, reveals significant progress in the work to end tobacco use, but products like e-cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, create concern for losing another generation to nicotine addiction. The report finds that although Rhode Island earned mixed grades, it maintained an “F” grade on tobacco control funding and a nearly failing “D” on its regulation of flavored tobacco products. 

The “State of Tobacco Control” report evaluates state and federal policymakers on actions taken to eliminate tobacco use, the nation’s leading cause of preventable death. The report recommends proven-effective tobacco control laws and policies to save lives. The 2022 “State of Tobacco Control” reveals that the country has made substantial progress in advancing tobacco control policies over the past 20 years, including comprehensive smokefree laws in more states, increased tobacco taxes across the nation and more Americans with access to treatments to help them quit smoking through state Medicaid programs. 

Here in Rhode Island in the last 20 years, lawmakers have made significant strides to reduce tobacco use, including a robust smokefree air act that protects people from secondhand smoke. However, there is more work to be done. The adult smoking rate is still 13.5%, and the high school tobacco use rate is 33.3%. Today, smoking costs the State over $639 million and over 1,700 Rhode Island lives annually.  

“While we have seen considerable progress in Rhode Island, tobacco use remains our leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 1,780 Rhode Island lives each year,” said Daniel Fitzgerald, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Rhode Island. “And our progress on tobacco control policy has been lacking on both tobacco control funding and protecting our youth from all flavored tobacco products.  Ultimately our legislators must do more to protect Rhode Island residents –especially youth – from a lifetime of nicotine addiction.”

Rhode Island’s Grades 
“State of Tobacco Control” 2022 grades states and the District of Columbia in five areas that have been proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use and save lives. Rhode Island received the following grades: 

  • Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
  • Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade A
  • 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 

This year’s report noted the need for Rhode Island policymakers to refocus on ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes in the State of Rhode Island. According to the 2021 National Youth Tobacco Survey, more than two million high school and middle school students use e-cigarettes, and over 80% of those kids use flavored e-cigarettes. In addition, menthol cigarettes continue to be the major cause of tobacco-related death and disease in Black communities, with nearly 81% of Black Americans who smoke using them. 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 menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars have on many communities, including Black Americans, LGBTQ+ Americans and youth.  

“Kids follow the flavors, so ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products in Rhode Island is key to ending youth tobacco use. We call on legislators in Providence to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol.” said Fitzgerald.

In addition to tobacco program funding, the report also highlights the importance of increasing funding for tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs. An investment in prevention is especially important given the ongoing youth vaping epidemic. 

“Despite receiving over $205 million from tobacco taxes, Rhode Island only funds tobacco control efforts 13% of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended level.  The Lung Association believes the State’s tobacco related revenue should be used to support the health of our communities, and to prevent tobacco use and help people quit, and not switch to e-cigarettes. These programs are also critical for helping to end tobacco-related health disparities,” said Fitzgerald.

Federal Grades Overview
“State of Tobacco Control” 2022 also grades the federal government in five areas: 

  • Federal Government Regulation of Tobacco Products (2022 grade – D)
  • Federal Coverage of Quit Smoking Treatments (2022 grade – D)
  • Level of Federal Tobacco Taxes (2022 grade – F)
  • Federal Mass Media Campaigns to Prevent and Reduce Tobacco Use (2022 grade – A)
  • Federal Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 (2022 grade – I*)

* The Incomplete grade is for the FDA being more than 18 months overdue in publishing the final Tobacco 21 regulations as required by statute.

Fitzgerald concluded, “In 2022, Rhode Island needs to redouble its efforts to pass the proven policies called for in ‘State of Tobacco Control’ to help end tobacco use. We cannot afford to wait 20 more years and allow another generation to suffer from tobacco-caused addiction, disease and death.” 

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 516.680.8927

For more information, contact:

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

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