ARIZONA NEWS

American Lung Association gives Arizona’s tobacco laws a failing grade

Jan 29, 2024, 4:35 AM | Updated: 8:27 am

American Lung Association says Arizona misses the mark on tobacco legislation...

A man spokes a cigarette in front of his house. (Photo by Boris Roessler/picture alliance via Getty Images)

(Photo by Boris Roessler/picture alliance via Getty Images)

PHOENIX — The American Lung Association released a report on each state’s efforts to limit and prevent tobacco use Wednesday. According to the State of Tobacco Control report, the Grand Canyon state has a lot to improve.

Researchers graded Arizona on five data points that are proven to reduce — or even prevent — tobacco usage:

– Funding for state tobacco prevention programs: F

– Smoke free workplace laws: B

– State tobacco tax: F

– Coverage and access to services to quit tobacco. C

– End the sale of all flavored tobacco products: F

If the state were a high school student, that would be a term GPA of 1.0.

JoAnna Strother, the senior director of advocacy at the American Lung Association in Arizona, said the report’s results are grim.

“We see that Arizona has mostly failing grades when it comes to tobacco control policies meant to protect Arizonans,” she said.

What the American Lung Association wants for Arizona

One area of emphasis for the American Lung Association is raising the state’s tax rate on tobacco products.

Strother calls it a “win, win win” approach because it reduces the number of adults who smoke and introduces fewer youths to tobacco while funneling more money into the state.

According to salestaxhandbook.com, a pack of cigarettes comes with a $2 dollar tax charge and loose tobacco, or snuff, is currently taxed at 22.3 cents per ounce.

The American Lung Association’s report also called for a ban on all flavored tobacco products.

“That would mean the state of Arizona would remove all flavored tobacco products from the market so they’re not able to be sold,” Strother said. “Flavored tobacco products are the most popular among youth.”

They’re taking that call further to the feds and calling on Biden to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars at a national level.

Why advocates are working hard to curb tobacco use

Strother says the reason they’re focused on these initiatives is because of young people.

“It is an adult’s choice,” she said. “But what happens with these products is they end up being marketed to kids. Kids become life-long nicotine users.”

That’s also why the association is pushing state lawmakers to create a retailer licensing system that stop shops from selling to underage customers.

Currently there are one-time fines, Strother said. The American Lung Association wants to see harsher punishments for stores with a pattern of selling tobacco to customers under 21.

Arizona is one of eight states that lack this licensing system.

“They know which retailers will sell them tobacco products,” Strother said, referring to kids who seek out cigarettes and vapes.

The overall goal of these initiatives is to protect the health of Arizonans and reduce healthcare costs generated from tobacco use and related illnesses.

According to the American Lung Association, 8,250 Arizonans die each year due to tobacco.

“Our smoking rate is 12.7% for adults,” Strother said. “In high schoolers, 17.4%. So, we’re looking to reduce those rates, reduce the healthcare costs due to smoking.”

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American Lung Association gives Arizona’s tobacco laws a failing grade