Pa. gets failing marks for tobacco control policies | Friday Morning Coffee

Despite years of education efforts, Pa. has a higher than average adult smoking rate, according to a new report

By: - January 27, 2023 7:11 am

(Photo Illustration by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Despite a public education campaign spanning years and running to the millions of dollars, Pennsylvania still gets failing marks for its tobacco-control policies, according to a new report.

The state has a higher than average adult smoking rate (14.4%) and more than a quarter of the state’s high school students (26.7%) use a tobacco product, the American Lung Association said Thursday as it released a nationwide report card on state-level efforts to combat tobacco use.

The state received “mostly failing grades” on the report, but did move up from an “F” to a “D” for the access it provides to cessation services, the public health advocacy group said.

The new results “[give] us an important opportunity to improve the health of our state through proven policies, such as preserving state funding for comprehensive tobacco prevention and control programs and closing the loopholes in the state’s Clean Indoor Act,” Deborah Brown, the group’s chief mission officer, said in a statement.

(Getty Images)

While the state’s grade for cessation services ticked upward because of increases in coverage for Pennsylvania’s Medicaid recipients, the state’s overall marks leave plenty of room for improvement, advocates said Thursday.

Here’s a look at the state’s overall marks: 

  • Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs: F
  • Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws: D
  • Level of State Tobacco Taxes: F
  • Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco: D
  • Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products: F

The report called on lawmakers to make policy changes, including:

  • “Preserving state funding for tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs: An investment in prevention is especially important given the ongoing youth vaping epidemic. Despite receiving $1,591,600,000 from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, Pennsylvania only funds tobacco control efforts at 12.8% of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Lung Association urges legislators to at a minimum continue the current level funding of $1,591,600,000 as these tobacco settlement 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.”
  • “Improving Pennsylvania’s Smokefree Law: The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Pennsylvania legislators should address loopholes in the Clean Indoor Act to Improve Pennsylvania’s Smokefree Law. The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Pennsylvania legislators should address loopholes in the Clean Indoor Act … making all public places and workplaces, including casinos, free from secondhand smoke,” and  
  • “Increasing tobacco taxes: 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. Multiple studies have shown that every 10% increase in the price of cigarettes reduces consumption by about 4% among adults and about 7% among youth. Pennsylvania has not increased its tobacco tax since 2016 and should increase its tax by at least a $1.00 per pack and equalize rates across all tobacco products.

“From improving health coverage of cessation services for state employees to increasing investments in the QuitLine, this year’s ‘State of Tobacco Control’ report shows that more can be done to help Pennsylvanians quit tobacco,” the ALA said in its statement.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.