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Delaware tobacco-control efforts receive mixed grades from Lung Association

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Deb Brown
CMO American Lung Association

While praising the strength of Delaware’s smoke-free workplace laws and the raising of the minimum age for selling tobacco products to 21 in 2019, the American Lung Association is urging elected officials to do more to protect youth from all tobacco products and reduce adult tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke.

“Despite Delaware receiving $147.5 million from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, the state funds tobacco control efforts [increasing funding for tobacco prevention and quit-smoking programs] at only 57.1% of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” said American Lung Association Chief Mission Officer Deborah Brown. [We] “believe the funds should be used to support the health of our communities, and to prevent tobacco use and help smokers quit, not switch.”

The organization released its 18th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report on Jan. 29, noting that Delaware’s adult tobacco use rate stands at 20.7% while youth use of e-cigarettes is 13.6%.  By comparison, the report says, 27.5% off high-school students are vaping, a 135% increase in high school e-cigarette use in just the past two years with close to 3 million kids starting to vape during that time period.

According to the report and the Centers for Disease Control’s 2018 Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System, health-care costs due to smoking in Delaware are $532.3 million, with deaths attributable to smoking at 1,440 in 2018.

The report grades states on policies proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use.  Delaware received high marks for raising the minimum age of sale for tobacco products to 21 effective July 16, 2019, making it one of only 13 states to do so. Delaware received the following grades:

  • Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs ““ Grade D
  • Strength of Smoke-free Workplace Laws – Grade A
  • Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade F
  • Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade B
  • Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 ““ Grade B

The report encourages Delaware to address youth tobacco use by removing all flavored tobacco products from the market and also urges legislators to increase the cigarette tax by $1 per pack and equalize taxes on tobacco products to the cigarette tax. The report says the current tax rate is $2.10 per pack with no equalization for any other tobacco product.

“We know youth are attracted to flavored tobacco products and use them at alarming rates, The Lung Association believes the only effective way to protect our youth from a lifetime of tobacco addiction is through a comprehensive policy measure that includes flavors and all tobacco products, including but not limited to menthol cigarettes, cigars and smokeless products,” Brown said.

Massachusetts took that historic step by prohibiting the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes in November 2019, becoming the first such state to do so.

The lung association said lawsuits that it and several public health partners filed have resulted in the federal Food and Drug Administration needing to take specific actions in 2020, including finalizing graphic warning labels on all cigarette packs by March 15,and requiring all e-cigarette, and most cigar, hookah, pipe and other manufacturers of deemed products to submit applications to the FDA by May 12 to remain on the market in the United States.

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