ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — According to a new report from the American Lung Association that grades each state on its tobacco funding and prevention efforts. In the 19th-annual report, “State of Tobacco Control,” New York state gets a failing grade.
“In New York State, our high school tobacco use rates remain at 19.3%. The state took an important step last year in removing flavored e-cigarettes from shelves, but without including menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, it’s not enough to end the surge in youth tobacco use,” said Michael Seilback of the American Lung Association. “Kids follow the flavors and ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products in New York is key to ending the youth e-cigarette epidemic and youth tobacco use overall.”
Not only did the report fail New York for prevention and funding, it also gave the state a “D” grade in a new category, flavored tobacco. The state also earned an “A” for smoke-free air, and two “Bs” for cessation services and tobacco taxes:
- Funding for state tobacco prevention programs: F
- Strength of smokefree workplace laws: A
- Level of state tobacco taxes: B
- Coverage and access to services to quit tobacco: B
- Ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products: D
The Lung Association wants legislators to pass meaningful policies, like banning the sale of all flavored tobacco products and raising taxes on cigarettes. They say that such restrictions would help end tobacco use and youth vaping, saving lives amid the ongoing pandemic.
“Despite receiving $1.9 billion from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, New York only funds tobacco control efforts at 21% of the level recommended by the CDC. The Lung Association believes the funds should be used to support the health of our communities, and to prevent tobacco use and help smokers quit, and not switch to e-cigarettes. These programs are also critical for helping to end tobacco-related health disparities” said Seilback.
By their reckoning, tobacco is the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease, killing nearly half a million people per year. An indirect byproduct of smoking is a lowered immune response, which can increase the risk of contracting COVID or even worsen its impacts.
“Menthol cigarettes remain a key vector for tobacco-related death and disease in Black communities, with nearly 85% of Black Americans who smoke using them,” states the American Lung Association.
They frame nicotine and tobacco controls as a social justice and health equity issue. Much like COVID-19, tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure disproportionately affect communities of color, the LGTBQ+, and lower-income households.