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February 05, 2016
Area(s) of Interest: Public Health 

California is largely failing in its efforts to fight tobacco use, according to the American Lung Association (ALA).

In its 14th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report released on February 3, ALA gave California a failing grade in three out of four possible categories: Tobacco prevention and cessation funding, tobacco taxes, and access to cessation services.

For the final category, which rates a state’s efforts to provide smoke-free air, California received a “B.”

“While significant progress has been made in reducing youth cigarette smoking, youth use of other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and little cigars, is at an all-time high,” said Harold Wimmer, ALA’s national president and CEO. “With almost a quarter of high school students still using tobacco products, it’s imperative that the states and the federal government take more aggressive action to reduce all tobacco use – the No. 1 cause of preventable death and disease in our nation.”

The ALA's annual report tracks the yearly progress of tobacco control policies at both the federal and state level. This year’s findings assert that California is not doing enough to combat the harmful, and most often deadly, impacts of smoking.

The report specifically points out that California’s tobacco tax, which hasn’t been changed since 1998, remains at 87 cents per pack – one of the lower rates in the nation. It also highlights a significant lack of funding in California for tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

To help reverse this trend, reduce tobacco use, protect Americans from secondhand smoke, and help eliminate tobacco-related deaths and diseases, one of ALA’s recommendations includes increasing California’s tobacco tax by $2 per pack and earmarking the additional revenue for tobacco prevention and treatment programs.

An initiative planned for California's November 2016 ballot, and already in the signature-gathering process, would accomplish such a goal. The California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016 would apply a $2-per-pack tax increase to all products containing nicotine derived from tobacco, including e-cigarettes.

The Save Lives California coalition – a group of public health advocates, including ALA and the California Medical Association – is spearheading the initiative for the purpose of saving lives and preventing teens from developing lifelong addictions to nicotine. In California, 90 percent of smokers start as teens and over 16,000 youths get hooked on smoking every year.

Once approved, funds generated from the tax would be directed to several of California’s underfunded health care programs, including smoking prevention and treatment programs, medical research and Medi-Cal.

To support a $2-per-pack tobacco tax increase in California and help improve our State of Tobacco Control grades in the process, visit www.savelivesca.com.


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