Vermont’s Inadequate Tobacco Control Policies are Not Enough to Prevent and Reduce Tobacco Use According to American Lung Association Report

American Lung Association report reveals best and worst states for tobacco control policies, outlines steps to reduce burden of tobacco in Vermont
The American Lung Association’s 21st annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, released today, described Vermont’s action on tobacco control policy as “dormant” as the state continued to earn mixed grades on this year’s report.

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. This is critical, as tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in America and takes the lives of 960 Vermont residents each year.

“Vermont has been lagging behind when it comes to tobacco control policies, and as a result, we have higher than average adult smoking rates at 14.8% and 28.2% of high school students use a tobacco product,” said Trevor Summerfield, Director of Advocacy at the American Lung Association in Vermont. “This gives us an important opportunity to improve the health of our state through proven policies, such as removing all flavored tobacco products from Vermont shelves, and increasing both tobacco taxes and funding for comprehensive tobacco prevention and cessation programs.”

Vermont’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 2023 report, Vermont received the following grades: 
  1. Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
  2. Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade A
  3. Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade B
  4. Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade A
  5. Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products – Grade F 
In this year’s report Vermont received an F grade for Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products, noting the need for policymakers to focus on finally removing flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes from Vermont shelves. During the 2021 legislative sessions, two hearings were held on Senate bill 24, a bill to end the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol, but further action was stalled in both the House and Senate after passage by the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. The Lung Association continues to support of that legislation, citing the 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey, which found more than 2.5 million high school and middle school students use e-cigarettes, and more 85% 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 over 80% 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. 

Vermont’s other failing grade pertained to its inadequate level of funding for tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs. An investment in prevention is especially important given the ongoing youth vaping epidemic. Despite receiving $104 million from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, Vermont only funds tobacco control efforts at 45% of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Lung Association believes the funds 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. 

Finally, the report urges Vermont to increase tobacco taxes. 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. Vermont has not significantly increased its tobacco tax since 2009 and should increase its tax by at least $1.00 per pack.

Federal Grades Overview
The report also grades the federal government on their efforts to eliminate tobacco use. This year, there were new steps taken by the government to prevent and reduce tobacco use, including proposed rules to end the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, Congress passing a law requiring the FDA to regulate tobacco products made with synthetic nicotine, and increased federal enforcement of the Tobacco Control Act. As a result of these steps forward, the federal government’s grade for “Federal Regulation of Tobacco Products” improved from a “D” grade last year, to a “C” grade in the 2023 report.

The 2023 “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 is overdue in publishing the final Tobacco 21 regulations as required by statute, which is why it earns an “incomplete.”  

To learn more about this year’s “State of Tobacco Control” grades and take action, visit Lung.org/sotc.

Media Resources available by request to [email protected]
 
For more information, contact:

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

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