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Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and in Wisconsin. To address this enormous toll, the American Lung Association calls for the following actions to be taken by Wisconsin's elected officials:

  1. Create tax parity between all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes;
  2. Protect Tobacco Prevention and Control Program funding; and
  3. Raise Wisconsin's legal age of sale for tobacco products to 21.

Tobacco control advocates worked tirelessly to pass several strong tobacco control bills including Tobacco 21, adding e-cigarettes to the state smokefree air law and equalizing the tax between cigarettes and little cigars (brown cigarettes). All these items were in the budget submitted by Governor Evers to the Joint Finance Committee of the State Legislature, unfortunately they were removed by the committee. The funding allocated for the Tobacco Prevention and Control Programs remained the same as the previous two-year state budget.

To make up for the state's inaction on adding e-cigarettes to the state smokefree air law, efforts instead were focused on local communities. The coalition is working with several communities throughout Wisconsin to pass ordinances to protect their citizens from secondhand e-cigarette aerosol. More than 56 municipalities and 5 counties in Wisconsin have already taken this step.

One positive result of the COVID-19 pandemic is that a majority of Wisconsin's tribally-owned casinos, which are not subject to the state smokefree air law, have reopened smokefree. 11 bands and tribes with a collective total of 19 casinos now prohibit smoking on the gaming floor, with only 4 casinos in the state permitting smoking.

The Tobacco Prevention and Control Program made a major shift in 2020 to high-risk populations that continue to smoke in greater numbers than the general public. Local Alliances were restructured to identify and focus on populations at greatest risk, including communities of color, low-income people, pregnant smokers, LGTBQ people and Native Americans. These new Alliances will utilize established partnerships with organizations that directly serve these populations, bringing education and services to those in greatest need.

Funding the Tobacco Control and Prevention Program is a top priority, and we have asked the Governor to use $3.325 million from federal American Rescue Plan dollars to bring program funding to 15% of the CDC recommended funding level. The pandemic context makes this investment even more critical since the CDC has said that smoking can weaken your immune system and put you at higher risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19.

Increasing the cigarette tax and creating parity between all tobacco products also would provide a reliable revenue stream that could help protect these important programs. Higher prices also will provide a much-needed deterrent to Wisconsin's youth who are experimenting with e-cigarettes at alarming rates.

The major challenge continues to be convincing the state legislature, controlled by fiscal conservatives, that tobacco control and increasing tobacco taxes have long term benefits, not just for public health, but also for the state's financial well-being.
Wisconsin Facts
Economic Cost Due to Smoking: $2,663,227,988
Adult Smoking Rate: 15.5%
High School Smoking Rate: 5.7%
High School Tobacco Use Rate: 22.2%
Middle School Smoking Rate: 1.4%
Smoking Attributable Deaths per Year: 7,850

Adult smoking data come from CDC's 2020 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. High school smoking and tobacco use rates are taken from the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. Middle school smoking rate is taken from the 2018 Wisconsin Youth Tobacco Survey.

Health impact information is taken from the Smoking Attributable Mortality, Morbidity and Economic Costs (SAMMEC) software. Smoking attributable deaths reflect average annual estimates for the period 2005-2009 and are calculated for persons aged 35 years and older. Smoking attributable healthcare expenditures are based on 2004 smoking attributable fractions and 2009 personal healthcare expenditure data. Deaths and expenditures should not be compared by state.

Wisconsin Information

Learn more about your state specific legislation regarding efforts towards effective Tobacco Control.

State Grades Report Laws & Policies