New Report: Virginia Earns Mostly Failing Grades for Tobacco Control Policies; Experts Recommend Focus on Tobacco Retail Licensing and Closing Loopholes in Clean Indoor Act

American Lung Association “State of Tobacco Control” report releases Virginia 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 Virginia received mostly failing grades (four F grades and one B) for efforts to prevent and reduce tobacco use. This year’s report noted the need for Virginia policymakers to focus on requiring tobacco product retailers to obtain a license and closing the loopholes in the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act.

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 death in Virginia and across the country and takes the lives of 10,310  residents each year. The tobacco industry will do anything to protect their profits at the expense of Virginia lives, so we must push forward in our efforts to prevent and reduce tobacco use,” said Aleks Casper, Director of Advocacy at the American Lung Association in Virginia. “This year, we are working with policymakers to focus on saving more lives by requiring retailers who sell tobacco products to have a license.”

Priority Calls to Action:

Require Tobacco Product Retailers to Obtain a License: Currently Virginia does not require tobacco and e-cigarette retailers to obtain a tobacco retail license. Here in Virginia, the high school tobacco use rate is 15.5% and without a comprehensive tobacco retail license program, Virginia cannot effectively enforce, educate, monitor or penalize illegal sales of tobacco products to people under 21. This includes monitoring retailer compliance through required compliance checks and graduated penalties for violation, including license suspension and revocation.

Close the Loopholes for Clean Air.  The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Passing a comprehensive smokefree law that eliminates smoking in all public places and workplaces, including bars and casinos, would protect workers and patrons across the state from deadly secondhand smoke.

Increasing the Tax on Cigarettes. 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. Virginia should increase its tax on cigarettes by at least $1.00 per pack.”

Virginia’s 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, Virginia received the following grades:

  1. Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
  2. Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade F
  3. Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade F
  4. Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade B
  5. Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products – Grade F 

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*

*State Funding for Tobacco Prevention Programs grades in “State of Tobacco Control” reflect actions taken by elected officials and do not reflect on the hard work of state tobacco control programs or advocates.

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.

For more information, contact:

Valerie Gleason
717-971-1123
[email protected]

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