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20th Annual ‘State of Tobacco Control’ Report Reveals South Carolina Still Lags Behind on Policies to Reduce Tobacco Use

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The American Lung Association’s 20th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, released today, reveals significant progress in the work to end tobacco use, but products like e-cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, create concern for losing another generation to nicotine addiction. The report finds that South Carolina earned nearly all failing grades on passing policies to reduce and prevent tobacco use, including e-cigarettes.

The “State of Tobacco Control” report evaluates state and federal policymakers on actions taken to eliminate tobacco use, the nation’s leading cause of preventable death. The report recommends proven-effective tobacco control laws and policies to save lives. The 2022 “State of Tobacco Control” reveals that the country has made substantial progress in advancing tobacco control policies over the past 20 years, including comprehensive smokefree laws in more states, increased tobacco taxes across the nation and more Americans with access to treatments to help them quit smoking through state Medicaid programs.

Here in South Carolina in the last 20 years, there have been some strides to reduce tobacco use, like a comprehensive cessation benefit for Medicaid enrollees however, there is more work to be done, such as increasing Tobacco Control Program funding. The smoking rate is still 18.1%, and the high school tobacco use rate is 27.5%.

“While we have seen some progress in South Carolina, tobacco use remains our leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 7,230 lives each year,” said Margaret Ann Youngs Development Director at the American Lung Association in South Carolina. “And our progress on tobacco control policy has not been equal. We continue to see the unequal burden of tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke in communities experiencing health disparities.”

South Carolina’s Grades

“State of Tobacco Control” 2022 grades states and the District of Columbia in five areas that have been proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use and save lives. South Carolina received the following grades:

  1. Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
  2. Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade F
  3. Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade F
  4. Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade B
  5. Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products   – Grade F

This year’s report noted the need for South Carolina policymakers to focus on funding for the Tobacco Control Program and licensing all tobacco retailers.  This year’s report recommends South Carolina establish retail tobacco licensing for all tobacco product sellers, including electronic cigarette sellers. Without a comprehensive tobacco retail license program, the state cannot effectively enforce, educate, monitor, or penalize illegal sales of tobacco products, such as sales of vaping products to minors. The need for South Carolina to take action to protect youth from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, is more urgent than ever, with the youth vaping epidemic continuing. With 1 in 5 teens vaping, our children are becoming the next generation addicted to tobacco. Youth vaping and tobacco use overall is largely driven by flavored tobacco products, and our report has added a new state grade calling for policies to end the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, flavored e-cigarettes and flavored cigars.

“Most concerning is proposed legislation to prevent local communities from passing policies to protect kids from tobacco. We oppose language in H.3681 that would prohibit local communities from passing important laws on tobacco and vaping product sales, licensing and the like, that are stronger than state law. Local control over matters designed to protect the public’s health has numerous benefits that are lost when local power is preempted,” said Lance Boucher, Division Assistant Vice President for the American Lung Association. “In South Carolina, our adult smoking rate is at 18.1% and 27.5% of high school students use tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. It is more important than ever for South Carolina’s local communities to be able to implement proven policies to prevent and reduce tobacco use.”

Federal Grades Overview

“State of Tobacco Control” 2022 also grades the federal government in five areas:

  • Federal Government Regulation of Tobacco Products (2022 grade – D)
  • Federal Coverage of Quit Smoking Treatments (2022 grade – D)
  • Level of Federal Tobacco Taxes (2022 grade – F)
  • Federal Mass Media Campaigns to Prevent and Reduce Tobacco Use (2022 grade – A)
  • Federal Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 (2022 grade – I*)

* The Incomplete grade is for the FDA being more than 18 months overdue in publishing the final Tobacco 21 regulations as required by statute.

“In 2022, South Carolina needs to redouble its efforts to pass the proven policies called for in ‘State of Tobacco Control’ to help end tobacco use. We cannot afford to wait 20 more years and allow another generation to suffer from tobacco-caused addiction, disease and death,” said Lance Boucher.

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