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Legislators urged to act on youth vaping epidemic

February 12, 2020

Tobacco use remains the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 480,000 lives every year.

This year’s State of Tobacco Control report from the American Lung Association calls for proven tobacco control policies in light of the fact that the country’s youth vaping epidemic worsened in 2019. This dire situation is a result of states’ and the federal government’s failure to enact policies called for in the report, such as increased tobacco taxes and stronger federal oversight of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

This year’s 18th annual report finds that in 2019, Delaware made progress on its efforts to reduce and prevent tobacco use, including e-cigarettes. Raising the minimum purchase age was a good step, but the American Lung Association urges Delaware officials in 2020 to pass policies to increase funding for prevention and cessation programs, and remove tobacco flavors from the market.

The youth vaping epidemic has continued its alarming rise to 27.5 percent, or more than one in four high school students. This is a staggering 135 percent increase in high school e-cigarette use in just the past two years, and close to 3 million more kids started vaping in that time period, setting them up for a lifetime of addiction.

“In Delaware, with the youth vaping epidemic still rising, we may have lost an opportunity to make the current generation of kids the first tobacco-free generation. Tobacco use is a serious addiction, and Delaware needs to implement the proven measures to prevent and reduce tobacco use outlined in State of Tobacco Control,” said Deborah Brown, chief mission officer for the American Lung Association.

This year’s report noted the need to focus on increasing funding for tobacco prevention and quit-smoking programs. “Despite Delaware receiving $147.5 million from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, the state funds tobacco control efforts at only 57.1 percent of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The American Lung Association believe the funds should be used to support the health of our communities, and to prevent tobacco use and help smokers quit, not switch,” said Brown.

The report also focused on the need to address youth tobacco use by removing all flavored tobacco products from the market. Congress failed to pass legislation to eliminate all flavored tobacco products, making the need for state action to end the sale of all flavored products critical.

State of Tobacco Control 2020 provides an important roadmap on how states like Delaware and the federal government can adopt proven policies to have the greatest impact on reducing tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. “Now is the time for lawmakers in Delaware to end their failure to act and take this opportunity to achieve lasting reductions in tobacco-related death and disease,” said Brown.

As the result of successful lawsuits filed by the American Lung Association and several public health partners, the FDA will be required to take several important actions to protect the public health from tobacco products in 2020. These include finalizing graphic warning labels on all cigarette packs by Sunday, March 15, and requiring all e-cigarette, and most cigar, hookah, pipe and other product manufacturers to submit applications to FDA by Tuesday, May 12, to remain on the market in the U.S.