Even amid the pandemic, tobacco use remains a serious public health threat. In addition to tobacco-related death and disease, smoking also increases the risk of the most severe impacts of COVID-19, making ending tobacco use more important than ever. This year’s “State of Tobacco Control” report from the American Lung Association graded federal and state efforts to reduce tobacco use and calls for meaningful policies that will prevent and reduce tobacco use and save lives. The report found that Maryland had mixed progress on its efforts to reduce and prevent tobacco use, including e-cigarettes.
Tobacco use remains the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 480,000 lives every year. Much like COVID-19, tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure disproportionately impacts certain communities, including communities of color, LGTBQ+ Americans and persons of lower income. To address this critical public health threat, “State of Tobacco Control” provides a roadmap for the federal and state policies needed to prevent and reduce tobacco use.
This year’s 19th annual report finds that Maryland has the opportunity to take action and pass policy to increase tobacco product taxes and funding for tobacco prevention and control programs in order to support public health and save lives in 2021. The need for Maryland 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 one in five teens vaping, children are becoming the next generation addicted to tobacco. Youth vaping and tobacco use overall is largely driven by flavored tobacco products, and the 19th annual 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.
“In Maryland, our adult smoking rate is 12.7% and our high school tobacco use rate is 27.4%. The surge in youth vaping combined with the fact that smoking increases the chance of severe COVID-19 symptoms, make it more important than ever for Maryland to implement the proven measures outlined in ‘State of Tobacco Control’ to prevent and reduce tobacco use,” said American Lung Association’s director of advocacy, Aleks Casper.
The 19th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report graded states and the federal government on policies proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use, and found that while Maryland has taken significant steps to reduce tobacco use, including providing access to cessation services, elected officials should do more to save lives and ensure all Maryland residents benefit from reductions in tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. This is especially the case during the pandemic. The report also explores the fact that tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure disproportionately impacts certain communities, including communities of color, LGBTQ+ Americans and persons of lower income, and outlines solutions to close this gap.
“State of Tobacco Control” 2021 graded states and the District of Columbia in five areas that have been proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use and save lives. Maryland received the following grades: