Tobacco use remains Washington’s and the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 480,000 lives every year in the U.S. This year’s “State of Tobacco Control” report from the American Lung Association finds that Washington earned failing grades on its efforts to reduce and prevent tobacco use.
The American Lung Association calls on the Washington legislature to pass legislation raising the age to purchase tobacco products to 21 and adequately fund tobacco prevention and control programs to save lives.
The need for Washington to protect youth from tobacco is more urgent than ever, with youth e-cigarette use reaching epidemic levels due to a 78 percent increase in high school e-cigarette use from 2017 to 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This equals one million additional youth beginning to use e-cigarettes, placing their developing bodies at risk from the chemicals in e-cigarettes, as well as a lifetime of deadly addiction.
“Tobacco use is a serious addiction and we need to invest in the proven measures to prevent and reduce tobacco use,” said Carrie Nyssen, Senior Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association in Washington. “The ‘State of Tobacco Control’ report is a roadmap on how to save lives using evidence-based policies.”
The 17th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report grades states and the federal government on policies proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use. Washington earns the following grades:
- Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
- Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade A
- Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade C
- Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade F
- Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade F
Almost 95 percent of smokers try their first cigarette by the age of 21. More must be done to prevent and reduce youth tobacco use, and one powerful tool is increasing the minimum age of sale for tobacco products to 21. The American Lung Association is strongly supporting two bills introduced in the legislature that would raise the age in Washington. Both bills have moved our of their policy committee early in the session.
“Increasing the age of sale for tobacco products to at least 21 years old would significantly reduce youth tobacco use, slow the e-cigarette epidemic and save thousands of lives,” said Nyssen. “In the 2019 ‘State of Tobacco Control’ report, we call for Washington officials to take action and protect the Washington children of by raising the minimum sales age for tobacco, including e-cigarettes to 21.”
Additionally, by increasing funding for tobacco control programs, Washington would have a powerful opportunity to further reduce and prevent tobacco use, including supporting communities that still use tobacco at higher rates and who have been targeted by the tobacco industry. Despite Washington receiving an estimated $550 million from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, less than $2 million is used on tobacco prevention and cessation programs.