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American Lung Association Releases Annual State Of Tobacco Control Report

New York gets mixed grades for its tobacco policies in The American Lung Association’s 2020 State of Tobacco Control report.

In this year's paper, no state earned an A grade in every category. New York and Vermont placed in the top five along with Maine, California and Washington, D.C.  ALA National Director of Policy Thomas Carr co-authored the report.   "Close to 95% of smokers try their first cigarette before age 21. So the Lung Association was thrilled to see the nationwide adoption of laws to increase the tobacco sales at 21. More tobacco 21 laws in 2019. Most at the state level, and then with passing the federal law December.  In total 13 states, including New York, passed tobacco 21 laws in 2019, prior to the federal law passing. New York passed a smoke free law back in 2003, but unfortunately, no state has joined New York in approving a comprehensive smoke free law since 2012. New York, 27 states and the District of Columbia have comprehensive smoking laws eliminating smoking in virtually all public places and workplaces in place."

"State of Tobacco Control" 2020 provides a blueprint that states and the federal government can follow to put in place proven policies that will have the greatest impact on reducing tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke in the U.S.

The ALA's 18th annual report shows during 2019 New York went from Grade F to A in the minimum age category, but the state maintained a failing grade for Tobacco Prevention and Control Program Funding, for providing only about a fifth of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended level of funds.

Director of Advocacy Elizabeth Hamlin says the ALA is calling on state officials to increase funding for the program, as well as increase tobacco taxes.   "Governor Cuomo's executive budget proposal includes level funding again this year for the state's tobacco control program. New York takes in nearly $2 billion from tobacco taxes and master settlement agreement dollars. New York has an obligation to use more of that money to help smokers quit and prevent kids from starting a lifetime of nicotine addiction. The program is funding at $42 million, far below the 203 million that the CDC recommends New York spend on tobacco control. The prescription to fight the epidemic of e-cigarettes is for New York State to devote more resources, more money to win this fight."

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi:   "Advocates advocate and pick their own facts to justify their cause. The truth is that under this administration youth smoking is at a low, the legal age to purchase tobacco was raised to 21 and the real conversation needs to be focused on stamping out the epidemic of teen vaping once and for all.”

New York-based pediatrician Dr. Karen Wilson agrees. She says between 2017 and 2019 e-cigarette use increased among high school students by 135 percent, with more than 1 in 4 kids vaping.    "As a doctor who treats patients who suffer from nicotine addiction and exposure to secondhand smoke and emissions, I can tell you firsthand that teens who use these cigarettes are becoming addicted quickly, and using these products very frequently, even more so than kids who use combusted tobacco. There are kids who actually wake up in the middle of the night to vape. We must do what we can to prevent people, especially young people from picking up their first cigarette or e-cigarette. And we must continue to use every tool, from legislation to education, to make cessation and prevention a priority."

New York 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 C
  •     Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade A

Vermont 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 B
  •     Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade A

The report criticized the state’s lack of action on flavored tobacco.
The ALA says tobacco use remains the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 480,000 lives every year.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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