PORTSMOUTH – The American Lung Association's "State of Tobacco Control" report has found that in 2016 the State of New Hampshire was one of the worst performing states in the nation in its efforts to implement proven-effective policies that would save lives. The 15th annual report grades states and the federal government on policies to prevent and reduce tobacco use. The report shows that most states and the federal government earned poor grades. Overall, New Hampshire received two failing grades for its lack of effort to raise the age of sale to 21 and its place as one of only two states to have zero funding for prevention and control programs. Of the report's five categories, New Hampshire's grades never reach above a "D."
"Tobacco use is the leading cause of death and disease in our nation. Today, 15.9 percent of adult residents of New Hampshire currently smoke, while over 30 percent of New Hampshire high school students currently use tobacco products," said Jeff Seyler, President and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast. "We need to hold New Hampshire policymakers accountable for the one in three high schoolers who are currently being drawn into a dangerous addiction to tobacco. Passing commonsense tobacco control measures including funding programs to prevent and control tobacco use and increasing the age of sale must become a priority if lawmakers want to save the lives of their residents."
The "State of Tobacco Control" report documents the progress and failures of the states and the federal government to address tobacco use, and the report assigns grades based on whether federal and state laws protect Americans from the enormous health toll tobacco use takes on lives and the economy. This year, the report has added a new grade on efforts to increase the minimum sales age for tobacco products to 21.
"Close to 95 percent of adult smokers try their first cigarette before the age of 21," said Seyler. "Increasing the minimum age of sale for tobacco products to 21 will significantly reduce youth tobacco use and save thousands of lives nationwide."
This year's "State of Tobacco Control" finds the State of New Hampshire's poor grades show that much more must be done by our Governor and State Legislature to pass proven-effective policies that will reduce tobacco use and save lives:
Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws - Grade D
Level of State Tobacco Taxes - Grade D
Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco - Grade D
Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade F
The American Lung Association of the Northeast calls on the state of New Hampshire to act to increase the age of sale for all tobacco products to 21; restore statewide funding for tobacco prevention and cessation efforts; and work to make all shared and public spaces smoke free and clear of secondhand smoke. One spot of hope on the report shows the state did make some progress in the access to cessation services category where the state moved last year's grade of an "F" to a "D."
Beyond efforts to reduce tobacco use rates, the report also looked at secondhand smoke protections in workplaces. While 28 states plus the District of Columbia have passed comprehensive smoke-free workplace laws, no state passed a comprehensive law in 2016, and only one state has passed a comprehensive smoke-free law since 2011. New Hampshire is one of 22 states that has yet to fully protect its citizens from secondhand smoke, earning it the worst grade out of the seven states included in the Lung Association's Northeast charter.
"Unfortunately, this report makes clear that New Hampshire is the worst performing state in the Northeast when it comes to efforts to reduce tobacco use," said Lance Boucher, the Lung Association's Director of Public Policy in New Hampshire. "It's also a great example of how our legislative agenda actually impacts the use of tobacco. It is no coincidence that the state with the worst grades has the highest percentage of high schoolers using tobacco. Instead of proposals to rollback New Hampshire's already weak smoke-free law, we must redouble our efforts to pass commonsense laws that protect our youth from a lifetime of addition, fund programs proven to help current smokers quit, and give all New Hampshire residents the freedom to breathe smoke-free air in public and shared spaces."
In this year's "State of Tobacco Control," the federal government earned an "F" for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Regulation of Tobacco Products. Although the American Lung Association applauds the release of the final rule that gave FDA authority over all tobacco products, the report recognizes the Obama Administration's failure to proceed with other key initiatives including requiring graphic warning labels on cigarettes and the federal government's failure to move forward on issuing a rule to end the sale of menthol cigarettes nationwide – despite the recommendations from an FDA expert advisory committee.
Other federal grades include a "C" for Federal Coverage of Quit Smoking Treatments, an "F" for Level of Federal Tobacco Taxes and a "B" for Mass Media Campaigns, including the Tips from Former Smokers Campaign.
"It's not a secret how to reduce tobacco use in this country. 'State of Tobacco Control' looks at proven methods to save lives and prevent our children from becoming the next generation hooked on tobacco," said Seyler. "We must demand that elected officials in New Hampshire urgently act to implement these proven policies that will save lives and prevent tobacco-caused death and disease."