Mississippi receives failing grade in tobacco use prevention

Broken down into five categories, the American Lung Association’s 21st annual “State of...
Broken down into five categories, the American Lung Association’s 21st annual “State of Tobacco Control” report evaluates state and federal policies on actions taken to eliminate tobacco use.(pexels.com)
Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 2:25 PM CST
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PINE BELT, Miss. (WDAM) - According to a report released on Wednesday by the American Lung Association (ALA), Mississippi is listed as one of the states with the worst policies to prevent and reduce tobacco use.

The state earned all failing grades on the American Lung Association’s 21st annual “State of Tobacco Control” report.

Broken down into five categories, the report evaluates state and federal policies on actions taken to eliminate tobacco use. It also offers recommendations for proven-effective tobacco control laws and policies.

The ALA said this information is critical because tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in America, taking the lives of 5,410 Mississippi residents each year.

“Mississippi lags behind when it comes to tobacco control policies,” said Ashley Lyerly, senior director of advocacy at the American Lung Association in Mississippi. “As a result, we have higher than average adult smoking rates at 19.6% and 27.6% of high school students use a tobacco product. This gives us an important opportunity to improve the health of our state through proven policies, such as ensuring smoke-free protections for all Mississippi residents in all workplaces - including bars, restaurants and gaming establishments.”

Mississippi’s Grades

The “State of Tobacco Control” report grades states and the District of Columbia in five areas that the ALA said are critical to use prevention and overall public health. In the 2023 report, Mississippi received the following grades:

  • Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
  • Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade F
  • Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade F
  • Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade F
  • Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products – Grade F

This year’s report noted the need for Mississippi policymakers to focus on passing a comprehensive smoke-free law.

In 2006, the U.S. Surgeon General concluded there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

The ALA said that passing a comprehensive smoke-free law that eliminates smoking in all public places and workplaces - including restaurants, bars and casinos - would protect workers across the state from deadly secondhand smoke. They added that e-cigarettes must also be included in comprehensive smoke-free laws because research shows they may also release harmful emissions.

Another ALA recommendation was that Mississippi lawmakers should ensure access to all U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved quit smoking treatments for state residents.

The ALA reported that nearly seven out of 10 smokers want to quit, but nicotine is highly addictive. Quitting is difficult, and despite the high number of smokers that want to quit, only about 7% of them currently do.

Based on other states’ successes, the ALA said that Mississippi lawmakers could help residents quit tobacco by covering all quit smoking treatments in its Medicaid program and for state employees. This should include access to all seven FDA-approved tobacco cessation medications and all three forms of counseling without barriers such as copays and prior authorization.

The organization also said it’s essential to increase the reach of Mississippi’s Quitline, or phone counseling service, to help tobacco users quit.

Federal Grades Overview

The “State of Tobacco Control” report also grades the federal government on its efforts to eliminate tobacco use.

This year, the government took new steps to prevent and reduce tobacco use, including proposed rules to end the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. Congress also passed a law requiring the FDA to regulate tobacco products made with synthetic nicotine and increased federal enforcement of the Tobacco Control Act.

As a result of these steps forward, the federal government’s grade for “Federal Regulation of Tobacco Products” improved from a “D” grade in 2022 to a “C” grade in 2023.

In the 2023 report, the federal government received the following grades:

  • Federal Government Regulation of Tobacco Products – Grade C
  • Federal Coverage of Quit Smoking Treatments – Grade D
  • Level of Federal Tobacco Taxes – Grade F
  • Federal Mass Media Campaigns to Prevent and Reduce Tobacco Use – Grade A
  • Federal Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Incomplete

The FDA is overdue in publishing the final Tobacco 21 regulations as required by statute, which is why it earns an “incomplete.”

To learn more about this year’s “State of Tobacco Control” grades and take action, visit Lung.org/sotc.

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