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Pennsylvania gets failing grades from Lung Association on tobacco use policies

  • Scott LaMar
Cigarette packs are displayed for sale at a convenience store in New York.

 Mark Lennihan / AP Photo

FILE PHOTO: Cigarette packs are displayed for sale at a convenience store in New York.

Airdate: January 26, 2023

Pennsylvania has some of the weakest policies in the country when it comes to preventing and reducing tobacco use. That’s according to the American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control report released Wednesday.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the U.S. It takes the lives of more than 22 thousand Pennsylvanians a year according to the Lung Association. The report provides grades in five areas and Pennsylvania doesn’t fare well in any other them.

Appearing The Spark Thursday, Jennifer Folkenroth, National Sr. Director, Tobacco Programs, American Lung Association explained what the state is being graded on,”The first is funding for state tobacco prevention programs. Now, this really are the programs out there to prevent kids in initiating tobacco use, providing programs to help individuals to quit that want to quit tobacco products for good. And unfortunately, Pennsylvania is grading in an F, We are failing in this slot. The second is strengthening the clean indoor air law. So making sure that smoke free laws are in place and are completely comprehensive to protect workers, all Pennsylvanians and residents across the state. Unfortunately, we received a D in this category due to all of the loopholes that continue to be in the Clean Indoor Air Act, the level of state tobacco taxes. We graded again a failing grade here. We have not revisited tobacco taxes here in Pennsylvania since 2016, and there’s a lot more we could be doing in increasing that tax at least by $1 to really increase the number of individuals quitting. The fourth area is coverage and access to cessation services. This is really ensuring that our state employees have access to all seven first line medications, as well as all counseling options to really help them quit, as well as, of course, the health and wellness of all Pennsylvanians across the state. And our fifth area is ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products. Unfortunately, we don’t have any laws or policies here to remove those. So again, we received a failing grade here in Pennsylvania.”

Dr. Jamie Garfield, American Lung Association National Spokesperson, Professor of Thoracic Medicine and Surgery, Temple Lung Center, Temple University Hospital was asked whether Pennsylvania’s policies have real world impacts,”More adults in Pennsylvania smoke than the national average or used tobacco products. Many more high school kids in Pennsylvania use tobacco products than the national average. And we may be it may take some time to see the effects of this. But the anticipated effect is that there will be more people who die or who suffer with tobacco related illness and death in Pennsylvania, you know, than in the rest of the nation. And this is is this preventable disease? This is this is about prioritizing tobacco control.”

The American Lung Association is advocating that a larger percentage of tobacco settlement funds go toward anti-tobacco programs and that taxes be increased on tobacco products to reduce tobacco use.

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