By Karen Stokes
The 2023 released “State of Tobacco Control” evaluates state and federal policies on actions taken to eliminate tobacco use and recommends proven-effective tobacco control laws and policies to save lives.
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in America and takes the lives of 7,850 Wisconsin residents each year.
Wisconsin received mostly failing grades for policies to prevent and reduce tobacco use, according to the American Lung Association’s 21st annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, released on January 25.
“Wisconsin lags behind when it comes to tobacco control policies, and as a result, (and despite reductions over the past decades) we still have higher than average adult smoking rates at 13.3%, and 22.2% of high school students use a tobacco product,” said Molly Collins, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Wisconsin. “This gives us an important opportunity to improve the health of our state through proven policies, such as increasing tobacco prevention and control program funding.”
The “State of Tobacco Control” report grades the 50 states and the District of Columbia in five areas that have been proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use. In the 2023 report, Wisconsin received the following grades:
Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade A
Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade D
Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco –Grade F
Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products – Grade F
Even the best states still have work to do, and no state received more than 3 A grades.
The states with the best grades in the 2023 report were California, Maine, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. The states with the worst grades in the 2023 report were Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas.
This year’s report noted the need for Wisconsin policymakers to focus on increasing funding for tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs in the state budget. An investment in prevention is especially important given the ongoing youth vaping epidemic. Despite receiving $721 million from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, Wisconsin only funds tobacco control efforts at 12% of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
14.1% of U.S. high-school students and 3.3% of middle schoolers currently vape as of 2021. E-cigarettes have created a new trend of nicotine addiction among American teens. The FDA and U.S. Surgeon General have declared it an epidemic.
The Lung Association believes increased funds should be used to support the health of our communities, and to prevent tobacco use and help people quit, and not switch to e-cigarettes. These programs are also critical for helping to end tobacco-related health disparities