New York Must Increase Funding to Tobacco Control Program to Prioritize Public Health over the Tobacco Industry in 2020
Lung Association calls on state officials to pass legislation prohibiting the sale of all flavored tobacco products, increase funding for prevention to address youth tobacco use epidemic
Albany, NY (January 29, 2020) – Tobacco use remains the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 480,000 lives every year. This year’s “State of Tobacco Control” report from the American Lung Association calls for proven tobacco control policies in light of the fact that the country’s youth vaping epidemic worsened in 2019. This dire situation is a direct result of states and the federal government’s failure to enact policies called for in the report such as increased tobacco taxes and stronger federal oversight of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. This year’s 18th annual report finds New York saw some progress with its grade in the minimum age category going from an F to an A, but the state maintained a failing grade for Tobacco Prevention and Control Program Funding for providing only 20.9% of the CDC recommended level of funds. The American Lung Association calls on New York State officials to increase funding for the program, as well as increase tobacco taxes and prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products in order to support public health and save lives in 2020.
The need for New York State to take action to protect youth from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, is more urgent than ever, with the youth vaping epidemic continuing its alarming rise to 27.5% or more than one in four high school students. This is a staggering 135% increase in high school e-cigarette use in just the past two years, and close to three million more kids started vaping in that time period, setting them up for a lifetime of addiction.
“We saw a big jump in New York’s grades in one particular area this year, and that’s in the minimum age category which went from an F in last year’s report to an A this year, thanks to the grassroots effort that championed that legislation all the way to the Governor’s desk, and then the President’s desk. Sadly, with the youth vaping epidemic still rising nationally, there is more to be done, specifically when it comes to removing all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, from the shelves. We know that flavored tobacco products initiate children to tobacco use, and its partially because of them that we may have squandered an opportunity to make the current generation of kids the first tobacco-free generation,” said American Lung Association Director of Advocacy Elizabeth Hamlin.
The 18th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report grades states and the federal government on policies proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use. In New York, while adult tobacco use and smoking rates did see slight declines, the report finds that elected officials must do more to save lives, combat the youth tobacco epidemic, and ensure all New York residents benefit from reductions in tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke.
New York State’s Grades:
Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
Strength of Smoke-free Workplace Laws - Grade A
Level of State Tobacco Taxes - Grade B
Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco - Grade C
Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade A
The American Lung Association encourages New York State to put in place all the public policies called for in “State of Tobacco Control,” and in particular, this year’s report noted the need to focus on increasing funding for tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs. An investment in prevention is especially important given the skyrocketing number of youth who are vaping. “Despite New York receiving $1.9 billion from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, the state funds tobacco control efforts at only 20.9% of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The American Lung Association believe the funds should be used to support the health of our communities, and to prevent tobacco use and help smokers and e-cigarette users quit,” said Hamlin. An emerging tobacco control issue, and a priority in New York State for 2020, is ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products. While New York’s move to increase the tobacco sales age to 21 in 2019 was celebrated in the report, its lack of action on flavored tobacco products leaves a major gap in its strategy to reduce youth tobacco use. Similarly, the U.S. Congress finished off 2019 by passing a federal law to increase the national tobacco sales age to 21, but also failed to pass legislation to eliminate all flavored tobacco products, making the need for state action to end the sale of all flavored products critical. Massachusetts took that historic step by prohibiting the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes in November 2019, becoming the first such state to do so. The Lung Association urges New York and other states to follow Massachusetts’ lead and pass comprehensive laws eliminating flavored tobacco products in 2020. Other priorities for the American Lung Association in New York are to equalize and increase the tax on all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, and to urge state law makers to expand coverage for all smoking cessation treatments in its Medicaid program, and for state employees. This should include access to all seven FDA-approved tobacco cessation medications and all three forms of counseling without barriers. Currently only minimal medications and counseling is covered on state employee health plans. “’State of Tobacco Control’ 2020 provides an important roadmap on how states like New York and the federal government can put in place the policies proven to have the greatest impact on reducing tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. Now is the time for lawmakers in New York to act boldly and take this opportunity to achieve lasting reductions in tobacco-related death and disease,” said Hamlin. The question remains, will 2020 be the year that public health is prioritized over tobacco product manufacturers so that another generation is spared the addiction to dangerous tobacco products? As the result of successful lawsuits filed by the American Lung Association and several public health partners, FDA will be required to take several important and long overdue actions to protect the public health from tobacco products in 2020. These include finalizing graphic warning labels on all cigarette packs by March 15, and requiring all e-cigarette, and most cigar, hookah, pipe and other manufacturers of deemed products to submit applications to FDA by May 12, 2020 to remain on the market in the U.S.