Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The American Lung Association’s 20th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, released today, 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 Alaska earned mixed grades on passing policies to reduce and prevent tobacco use, including e-cigarettes.
The “State of Tobacco Control” report evaluates state and federal policymakers on actions taken to eliminate tobacco use. The report 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.
In the last 20 years, Alaska lawmakers have made efforts to reduce tobacco use, including protecting Alaskans from secondhand smoke and funding tobacco prevention and control programs. However, the smoking rate is still 18%, and the high school tobacco use rate is 33.7%.
“While we have seen considerable progress in Alaska, tobacco use remains our leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 610 lives each year,” said Carrie Nyssen, Senior Director of Advocacy at the American Lung Association in Alaska. “Our progress on tobacco control policy has not been equal. We continue to see the unequal burden of tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke in communities experiencing health disparities.
“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. Alaska received the following grades:
1. Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade A
2. Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade B
3. Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade D
4. Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade B
5. Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products – Grade F
This year’s report noted the need for Alaska policymakers to focus on increasing tobacco taxes. The Association said that one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use, not only among low-income individuals but also for youth, is to significantly increase the tax on all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. They cite studies showing that every 10% increase in the price of cigarettes reduces consumption by about 4% among adults and about 7% among youth. Alaska has not significantly increased its tobacco tax since 2005.
“To protect kids from a lifetime of nicotine addiction, the Lung Association encourages Alaska to increase cigarette taxes and initiate a tax on electronic cigarettes,” said Nyssen. “In 2022, Alaska 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."