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'Tobacco use is a serious addiction'

By Norwalk Reflector staff • Feb 7, 2019 at 3:00 PM

The American Lung Association’s 2019 “State of Tobacco Control” shows Ohio earned mixed grades on its tobacco policies.

The 17th annual report grades states and the federal government on policies proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use, and finds that while Ohio has taken significant steps to reduce tobacco use, including smoke-free air laws, elected officials must do more to save lives and ensure all Ohio residents benefit.

“In Ohio, our smoking rates remain at 21.1 percent. Tobacco use is a serious addiction and we need to invest in the proven measures to prevent and reduce tobacco use outlined in (the) ‘State of Tobacco Control,’” said Ken Fletcher, director of advocacy in Ohio. “The report provides a roadmap on how to save lives, but much work remains to be done in communities across Ohio to prevent and reduce tobacco use.”

The need for Ohio to take action to protect youth from tobacco is more urgent than ever, with youth e-cigarette use reaching epidemic levels due to a 78 percent increase in high school e-cigarette use from 2017 to 2018, according to results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey. This equals one million additional kids beginning to use e-cigarettes, placing their developing bodies and lungs at risk from the chemicals in e-cigarettes as well as a lifetime of addiction to a deadly product. This has caused the U.S. Surgeon General to declare e-cigarette use among young people an epidemic in an advisory issued in December.

This year’s “State of Tobacco Control” finds Ohio’s mixed grades show that progress can be made, although more still must be done by Gov. Mike DeWine and the state legislature to enact proven policies that will reduce tobacco use and save lives:

• Funding for state tobacco prevention programs - grade F

• Strength of smoke-free work place laws - A

• Level of state tobacco taxes - F

• Coverage and access to services to quit tobacco - C

• Minimum age of sale for tobacco products to 21 - F

Sadly, the report also details that as a result of decades of targeted marketing by the tobacco industry, too many Americans haven’t seen the benefits of reduced smoking rates, and Ohio and the federal government could do more to ensure all Americans benefit from tobacco control efforts.

According to the American Lung Association:

• If Ohio 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 and who have been targeted by the tobacco industry. Ohio receives nearly $1.293 billion from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes and should use more of these funds to help prevent tobacco use and help smokers quit.

• Increasing tobacco taxes is one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use, not only among low-income individuals but also for youth. To protect children and teenagers from a lifetime of nicotine addiction, the Lung Association in Ohio encourages Ohio to increase tobacco taxes by at least $1 per pack.

• Tobacco is a highly addictive product and close to 95 percent of smokers try their first cigarette by the age of 21. More must be done to prevent and reduce youth tobacco use in Ohio and one powerful tool is increasing the minimum age of sale for tobacco products to 21. In fact, 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 – the nation’s leading cancer killer.

“(The) ‘State of Tobacco Control’ 2019 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 real question is: Will lawmakers in Ohio end their failure to act and take this opportunity to achieve lasting reductions in tobacco-related death and disease?” Fletcher said.

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