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American Lung Association grades are in: Utah has three F’s

FILE - In this April 23, 2014 file photo, a man smokes an electronic cigarette in Chicago. After the vaping epidemic worsened in 2019, the association has been urging states to make changes. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Every year, the American Lung Association assesses tobacco control policies across the country in its State of Tobacco Control report. This year, Utah has three F’s out of five categories.

The report judges states based on five categories: Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs, Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws, Level of State Tobacco Taxes, Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco and Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21.

The association says tobacco use remains the nation’s leading cause of preventable death. Now, they’re calling on state officials to pass a tobacco tax in 2020 that will end tobacco use, youth vaping and save lives.

In the report, Utah got the following grades:

·         Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F

·         Strength of Smokefree 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 F

American Lung Association urges states to change legislation

The ALA reported that 2020 is a dire year to improve these grades. After the vaping epidemic worsened in 2019, the association has been urging states to make changes. Now, the association is calling on state and federal governments to enact policies such as increased taxes on tobacco products and stronger federal oversight on products like e-cigarettes.

Utah is no exception.

The report finds that the youth vaping epidemic continued its alarming rise to 27.5% — which is more than one in four high school students. This number is a 135% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school students in just the past two years.

The ALA also reported that close to three million more kids started vaping in that time period.

“In Utah, our tobacco use rates remain at 15%,” said JoAnna Strother senior director of advocacy for the ALA in Utah, in a statement. “Sadly, with the youth vaping epidemic still rising, we may have lost an opportunity to make the current generation of kids the first tobacco-free generation. Tobacco use is a serious addiction and Utah needs to implement the proven measures to prevent and reduce tobacco use outlined in ‘State of Tobacco Control.”

Increased taxes

The ALA is especially focusing on increasing taxes to lessen tobacco use. The association argues that this will help reduce use among low-income individuals and youth.

“To protect kids from a lifetime of nicotine addiction, the Lung Association in Utah encourages Utah to increase cigarette taxes,” Strother said. “Equalize the tax on other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes with its cigarette tax. These steps are critical to Utah as current tobacco use, including vaping, among youth is 9.7%.”

The press release cited studies showing the benefits of increasing taxes. Every 10% price increase reduces consumption by about 4% among adults and 7% among youth, according to the statement.

Minimum age of sale

Another area the American Lung Association wants Utah to improve is increasing the minimum age to purchase tobacco products. This includes e-cigarettes.

By the end of 2019, U.S. Congress passed a federal law to increase the national tobacco sales age to 21. This ensures all states will have a minimum age of 21 in 2020.

However, there hasn’t been national legislation to ban the use of flavored e-cigarettes.