1. Support and preserve funding for Alaska's Tobacco Prevention and Control Program;
2. Add electronic smoking products to tobacco tax and increase cigarette tax; and
3. Maintain Medicaid eligibility in the state to ensure access to care and quit smoking treatments.
Alaska's Tobacco Prevention and Control program follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's best practices with the goals of preventing youth from starting tobacco use; protecting non-smokers from secondhand smoke; promoting cessation; and identifying and eliminating tobacco-related disparities.
Alaska has made great progress in reducing cigarette smoking prevalence, especially among youth. We achieved a 70% reduction in youth use between 1995 and 2013 by following best practices to prevent and reduce tobacco use. Now, e-cigarettes are addicting a new generation of youth threatening all that progress.
Alaska's current $2.00 per pack cigarette tax has not changed since 2007, and the state is long overdue for an increase. Establishing a tax on e-cigarettes should also be a priority given the high rates of youth use being seen in Alaska and across the country.
Increasing taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products has been proven over and over to be a win-win-win proposition. Significantly increasing tobacco taxes results in fewer kids starting to smoke, and in more adults quitting while at the same time providing revenue to the municipality. Tobacco taxes also have strong public support. A 2019 statewide poll by Hellenthal and Associates for the American Lung Association reported 73% of Alaskans responding that they support taxing e-cigarettes and vape products at the same rate as cigarettes. Youth tend to be more price sensitive than adults, which is why tobacco taxes help to deter kids from starting. For adults, most of them want to quit, particularly pregnant women, and price increases serve as another incentive or nudge to do so. In Alaska 67% of adult smokers want to quit.
Given the dramatic rise in youth e-cigarette use from 18% in 2015 to 26% in 2019, Alaska's Tobacco Prevention and Control program is needed now more than ever, and that is why it is critical its funding be maintained in the fiscal year 2022 state budget. Protecting funding in Alaska's Tobacco Use Education and Cessation Fund is an annual challenge, and the American Lung Association in Alaska will continue to defend this vital funding and program this session. The Lung Association will also work on state legislation to increase the tobacco sales age to 21 during the 2021 legislative session to align state statute to federal Tobacco 21 law for effectiveness of the Alaska underage sales enforcement program.
Economic Cost Due to Smoking: $438,143,263
Adult Smoking Rate: 17.4%
High School Smoking Rate: 8.4%
High School Tobacco Use Rate: 33.7%
Middle School Smoking Rate: N/A
Smoking Attributable Deaths per Year: 610
Adult smoking data come from CDC's 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. High school smoking and tobacco use data come from the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. A current middle school smoking rate is not available for this state.