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State of Tobacco Control 2019

Tobacco 21 Laws Methodology

In March 2015, the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) issued a report looking at the effect increasing the age of sale for tobacco products could have on youth smoking rates. The report concluded that increasing the age of sale for tobacco products to 21 could prevent 223,000 deaths among people born between 2000 and 2019, including 50,000 fewer dying from lung cancer, the nation's leading cancer killer.1

Grades were awarded in this category based on whether a state had increased the age of sale for tobacco products to 21. Letter grades were deducted based on if groups, like active duty military, were exempted from the age of sale of 21, some tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes were exempted, or the age of sale was 19 or 20 years old.

Grades break down as follows:

Grade

Groups

A

age of sale for all tobacco products is 21 years of age with no exceptions;

B

age of sale for all tobacco products is 21 years of age, but certain groups, such as active duty military are exempted;

D

age of sale for all tobacco products is 19 or 20 years old and/or one or more types of tobacco products are exempted from a law increasing the age of sale to 21;

F

age of sale for some or all tobacco products is 18 years of age.

There is one situation that creates an exception to the grading system:

  • Local Ordinances: States without a statewide age of sale for tobacco products of 21 years old may be graded based on local ordinances. Local ordinances that increase the age of sale for all tobacco products to 21 are considered according to the percentage of population covered in the state. States with over 95 percent of their population covered by local Tobacco 21 ordinances will receive an "A," over 80 percent a "B," over 65 percent a "C" and over 50 percent a "D." Local ordinances that cover less than 50 percent of the population will not be considered for evaluation under this exception.
  • Sources
    1.  Institute of Medicine, Public Health Implications of Raising the Minimum Age of Legal Access to Tobacco Products, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2015, http://www.nationalacademies.org/hmd/Reports/2015/TobaccoMinimumAgeReport.aspx.

    Did You Know?

    1. More than 27 percent of high school students in the U.S. use at least one tobacco product, including e-cigarettes, according to the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey.
    2. 7.2 percent of middle school students use at least one tobacco product, including e-cigarettes, according to the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey.
    3. From 2017 to 2018, high school e-cigarette use increased by 78 percent and middle school e-cigarette use increased by close to 50 percent in the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey.
    4. Smoking is the number one preventable cause of death in the U.S., killing over 480,000 people per year.
    5. Secondhand smoke kills more than 41,000 people in the U.S. each year.
    6. 28 states and Washington D.C. have passed laws making virtually all public places and workplaces, including restaurants and bars smokefree.
    7. The District of Columbia has the highest cigarette tax in the country at $4.50 per pack.
    8. Missouri has the lowest cigarette tax in the country at 17 cents per pack.
    9. The average of all states plus the District of Columbia's cigarette taxes are $1.78 per pack.
    10. Three states – Connecticut, Tennessee and West Virginia – spend no state dollars at all tobacco prevention programs.
    11. No state is funding its tobacco control programs at or above the CDC-recommended level (in Fiscal Year 2019).
    12. Kentucky, Oklahoma and the District of Columbia increased their cigarette taxes in 2018.
    13. No state approved a comprehensive smokefree workplace law in 2018.
    14. 12 states – California, Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon and South Carolina– offer a comprehensive cessation benefit to tobacco users on Medicaid.
    15. Each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia provide tobacco quitlines, a phone number for quit smoking phone counseling. The median amount states invest in quitlines is $2.21 per smoker in the state.
    16. Massachusetts passed legislation increasing its minimum sales age for tobacco products to 21 in 2018.
    17. Six states, the District of Columbia and over 350 communities have passed Tobacco 21 laws.
    18. Nationwide, the Medicaid program spends more than $39.6 billion in healthcare costs for smoking-related diseases each year – more than 15.2 percent of total Medicaid spending.
    19. In 2009, the American Lung Association played a key role in the passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority over tobacco products.
    20. The American Lung Association played a key role in airplanes becoming smokefree in the 1990s.
    21. 43 states and the District of Columbia spend less than half of what the CDC recommends on their state tobacco prevention programs.
    22. States spend less than three cents of every dollar of the $27.3 billion they get from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes to fight tobacco use.
    23. Each day, more than 2,000 kids under 18 try their first cigarette and more than 300 kids become new, regular smokers.
    24. Each day, more than 1,900 kids try their first cigar. On average, more than 80 kids try their first cigar every hour in the United States – equaling about 712,000 every year.
    25. Smoking costs the U.S. economy over $332 billion in direct health care costs and lost productivity every year.
    26. The five largest cigarette companies spent over $23 million dollars per day marketing their products in 2016.
    27. Secondhand smoke causes $5.6 billion in lost productivity in the U.S. each year.
    28. Smoking rates are over twice as high for Medicaid recipients compared to those with private insurance.
    29. A 2013 study of California's tobacco prevention program shows that the state saved $55 in healthcare costs for every $1 invested from 1989 to 2008.
    30. A 2017 study found that states which expanded Medicaid had a 36 percent increase in the number of tobacco cessation medication prescriptions relative to the states that did not expand Medicaid. This means more quit attempts with proven cessation treatments are being made. 
    31. In 2018, three states, Idaho, Nebraska and Utah, voted to expand their Medicaid coverage, providing more smokers with access to tobacco cessation treatments.
    32. Uninsured Americans smoke at a rate more than two times higher than people with private insurance.
    33. An estimated one-third of Americans living in public housing smoke.
    34. Persons with mental illness consume close to 40 percent of all cigarettes in the U.S.
    35. Native Americans and Alaska Natives have the highest smoking rates among any racial/ethnic group.
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