CONTACT: Dona Wininsky
P: 262-703-4840 E: [email protected]
Brookfield, WI [EMBARGOED UNTIL: 12:01 a.m. EST, January 24, 2018] – The American Lung Association’s 2018 “State of Tobacco Control” shows Wisconsin can and should be doing more to save lives by implementing proven tobacco policies. The 16th annual report grades states and the federal government on policies to prevent and reduce tobacco use, and finds that Wisconsin lags significantly behind many other states in the nation to reduce and prevent tobacco use, and state policymakers must do more to prevent the death and disease associated with tobacco use and save lives.
“Statewide, smoking rates have continued to decline to historic lows, yet tobacco use remains Wisconsin’s leading cause of preventable death and disease killing nearly 8,000 residents each year,” said Dona Wininsky, Director, Tobacco Control and Public Policy, American Lung Association in Wisconsin. “Tobacco use is a serious addiction, and the fact that so many Wisconsinites are still smoking highlights how much work remains to be done.”
With one exception, this year’s “State of Tobacco Control” finds Wisconsin mostly failing to enact proven policies that will reduce tobacco use and save lives:
Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade A
Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade D
Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade F
Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade F
Sadly, the report also details that too many Americans haven’t reaped the benefits of reduced smoking rates, and Wisconsin could do more to ensure all Americans benefit from tobacco control efforts. According to the American Lung Association,
If the state legislature were to pass AB225/SB307 requiring ALL tobacco products to be behind the counter or in a locked cabinet, that would place one more barrier between youth and their access to products like candy and fruit flavored little cigars. Even the most well-trained retailer can mistake these “look-alike/smell-alike” flavored tobacco products for treats. However, by requiring youth to ask for them by name, retailers will better know when to ask for ID.
If Wisconsin would increase funding for tobacco control programs, they would have a powerful opportunity to target these programs to communities that still use tobacco at higher rates.
Nearly seven out of ten smokers want to quit, but tobacco use is a serious addiction and quitting can be difficult. Evidence suggests that the number of people quitting smoking increased when coverage for tobacco treatments provides access to all seven FDA-approved tobacco cessation medications and all three forms of counseling without barriers, such as copays and prior authorization. Wisconsin lawmakers have a powerful opportunity to help smokers quit and reduce disparities in tobacco use by removing all barriers to quit smoking treatments in its Medicaid program. Medicaid enrollees smoke at a rate almost three times as high as those with private insurance.
Increasing tobacco taxes is one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use, not only for low-income individuals but also for youth. While Wisconsin’s cigarette tax is above the national average, the state legislature has declined on three separate occasions to increase the tax on other tobacco products such as candy and fruit-flavored little cigars. Studies document that while youth cigarette smoking rates are declining, use of little cigars and other flavored products is skyrocketing.
Tobacco is a highly addictive product, and close to 95 percent of smokers try their first cigarette by the age of 21. One powerful tool is increasing the minimum age of sale for tobacco products to 21. In fact, the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) found increasing the minimum age of sale for all tobacco products to 21 could prevent 223,000 deaths among people born between 2000 and 2019, including 50,000 fewer dying from lung cancer.
“We know how to reduce tobacco use in this country. ‘State of Tobacco Control’ looks at proven methods to save lives and protect the health of all Americans,” said Wininsky. “Wisconsin’s elected officials must act to implement these proven policies, which will prevent tobacco-caused death and disease.”