The American Lung Association’s 20th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, reveals significant progress in the work to end tobacco use, but products like e-cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, create concern for losing another generation to nicotine addiction. The report finds that although Vermont earned mixed grades, it maintained two “F’s” on tobacco control funding and its regulation of flavored tobacco products.
The “State of Tobacco Control” report evaluates state and federal policymakers on actions taken to eliminate tobacco use, the nation’s leading cause of preventable death. The report recommends proven-effective tobacco control laws and policies to save lives. The 2022 “State of Tobacco Control” reveals that the country has made substantial progress in advancing tobacco control policies over the past 20 years, including comprehensive smokefree laws in more states, increased tobacco taxes across the nation and more Americans with access to treatments to help them quit smoking through state Medicaid programs.
Here in Vermont, in the last 20 years, lawmakers have made significant strides to reduce tobacco use, including a robust clean indoor air act that protects people from secondhand smoke. However, there is more work to be done. The adult smoking rate is still 13.3%, and the high school tobacco use rate is 28.2%. Today, smoking costs the state over $348 million and nearly 1,000 Vermont lives annually.
“While we have seen considerable progress in Vermont, tobacco use remains our leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 960 Vermont lives each year,” said Trevor Summerfield, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Vermont. “And our progress on tobacco control policy has not been equal. Last year we saw some small steps toward the goal of taking flavored tobacco products off the shelves, but ultimately our legislators must do more to protect Vermont residents – especially youth – from a lifetime of nicotine addiction.”
“State of Tobacco Control” 2022 grades states and the District of Columbia in five areas that have been proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use and save lives. Vermont received the following grades:
• Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
• Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade A
• Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade B
• Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade A
• Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products – Grade F
This year’s report noted the need for Vermont policymakers to refocus on ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes in the State of Vermont. According to the 2021 National Youth Tobacco Survey, more than two million high school and middle school students use e-cigarettes, and over 80% of those kids use flavored e-cigarettes. In addition, menthol cigarettes continue to be the major cause of tobacco-related death and disease in Black communities, with nearly 81% of Black Americans who smoke using them. Ending the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol, will not only help end youth vaping, but will also help address the disproportionate impact of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars have on many communities, including Black Americans, LGBTQ+ Americans and youth.
“Kids follow the flavors, so ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products in Vermont is key to ending youth tobacco use. We call on legislators in Montpelier to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol,” said Summerfield.
In addition to tobacco program funding, the report also highlights the importance of increasing funding for tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs. An investment in prevention is especially important given the ongoing youth vaping epidemic.
“Despite receiving over $103 million from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, Vermont only funds tobacco control efforts at less than half the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended level. The Lung Association believes the state’s tobacco related revenue should be used to support the health of our communities, and to prevent tobacco use and help people quit, and not switch to e-cigarettes. These programs are also critical for helping to end tobacco-related health disparities,” said Summerfield.
Federal Grades Overview
“State of Tobacco Control” 2022 also grades the federal government in five areas:
• Federal Government Regulation of Tobacco Products (2022 grade – D)
• Federal Coverage of Quit Smoking Treatments (2022 grade – D)
• Level of Federal Tobacco Taxes (2022 grade – F)
• Federal Mass Media Campaigns to Prevent and Reduce Tobacco Use (2022 grade – A)
• Federal Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 (2022 grade – I*)
* The Incomplete grade is for the FDA being more than 18 months overdue in publishing the final Tobacco 21 regulations as required by statute.
Summerfield concluded, “In 2022, Vermont needs to redouble its efforts to pass the proven policies called for in ‘State of Tobacco Control’ to help end tobacco use. We cannot afford to wait 20 more years and allow another generation to suffer from tobacco-caused addiction, disease and death.”
For media interested in speaking with an expert about the “State of Tobacco Control” report, lung health, tobacco use and tobacco control policies, contact the American Lung Association at Jennifer.Solomon@Lung.org or 516-680-8927.
About the American Lung Association
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to champion clean air for all; to improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and to create a tobacco-free future. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.