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Report: Arizona needs to do more to prevent, reduce tobacco use

(AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

PHOENIX — A report from the American Lung Association says Arizona isn’t doing enough to prevent and reduce tobacco use.

The 2019 State of Tobacco Control report found that 8,250 deaths in Arizona in 2017 were attributed to smoking.

While the state’s adult smoking rate has generally been declining, it increased in 2017 to 15.6 percent, according to the data.

But even more importantly, the report said, Arizona needs to focus on its youth.

“Our high school tobacco use rate is about 21.6 percent, and that’s a bit alarming, because we do know that e-cigarettes and e-cigarette use is at an all-time high, about 78 percent increase (from 2017 to 2018) in our high school who are choosing to use e-cigarettes,” JoAnna Strother, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Arizona, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday.

Strother said 97 percent of e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is addictive.

“We do know that here in Arizona … our high schools have been contacting our attorney general’s office, and they’re confiscating trash bags full of these products that they’re taking away from our youth,” she said.

“Even the surgeon general has reported that e-cigarettes and vaping is now being considered an epidemic just because of the amount of teens that are starting to use these products.”

The report graded the state in five categories:

  • funding for state tobacco prevention programs — F
  • strength of smoke-free workplace laws — A
  • level of state tobacco taxes — F
  • coverage and access to services to quit tobacco — D
  • minimum age of sale for tobacco products — F

Based on the findings, the American Lung Association recommended that Arizona put more funding toward prevention programs and increase the minimum age of sale for tobacco products from 18 to 21.

“We know that if we can keep our youth from starting to smoke, and particularly over the age of 21, we know that they’re not likely to become addicted to the substance, and they’re not likely to become regular, daily smokers,” Strother said.

She said the association also wanted to implement a tobacco tax.

“We know that youth and adults are affected by price, so when the price of these products go up, we do see youth, about 7 percent, decrease in youth initiation, and we do see adults quitting,” she said.

“So those are some things that we’re looking at in Arizona this year to really improve this report card, and really help people and our youth to not start, and our adults to quit.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ashley Flood contributed to this report. 

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