HARRISBURG, PA – Cancer patients and survivors are marking the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) 45th annual Great American Smokeout today by calling on Governor Wolf and the State Legislature to support funding for Pennsylvania’s Tobacco Control Programs in the new budget. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) says it is crucial, that our legislature secure $14.7 million to continue to fund this program that helps non -smokers never start and helps smokers quit. In Pennsylvania, 3,700 kids under 18 become new daily smokers each year and our high school and adult smoking rates are above the national average!
ACS CAN says our state leaders must do all they can to protect the health of state residents by passing strong tobacco control legislation. As our battle with COVID-19 continues, we must do everything in our power to keep our communities healthy and safe—which means building strong public health infrastructure including comprehensive tobacco control measures.
As the advocacy affiliate of ACS, the ACS CAN, supports evidence-based strategies proven to reduce tobacco use including comprehensive smoke-free laws, regular and significant tobacco excise tax increases, and adequately funding evidence-based tobacco prevention and cessation programs.
This effort to combat tobacco addiction comes at a critical moment, as Big Tobacco has now succeeded in hooking a new generation on tobacco products. E-cigarette use has reached significant levels among youth, with approximately one in five high school students (19.6%) currently using e-cigarettes.
“Nearly 70% of people who currently smoke cigarettes want to quit, and the Great American Smokeout is about helping people reach that important goal. We know preserving Pennsylvania’s funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs will help people quit and save lives,” said ACS CAN Pennsylvania Government Relations Director Emma Watson. “People who smoke or who used to smoke are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 so the sooner we can help Pennsylvanians quit, the better. Health benefits begin occurring quickly after quitting smoking, including rapid improvements in blood carbon monoxide levels and in respiratory tract function, as well as slower improvements over time in immune function.”
Reducing Big Tobacco’s grip on Pennsylvania is not only crucial to reducing death from tobacco-related disease, but it’s also imperative to reduce health disparities in the state. The tobacco industry’s marketing strategies have led to significant disparities in tobacco use including higher use of tobacco products among people with lower incomes, Blacks, American Indian and Alaskan Natives, and LGBTQ+ individuals. The lack of comprehensive tobacco control laws and funding in a locality or state can contribute to disparities in tobacco use.
The $739.7 million the states have budgeted for tobacco prevention amounts to just 22.4% of the $3.3 billion the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends for all states.
“While we’ve made progress in tobacco control, we have to remember that we have a long way to go when it comes to combatting Big Tobacco’s influence and protecting our communities from tobacco’s toll,” said Watson.
The use of tobacco products remains the nation’s number one cause of preventable death, killing more than 480,000 Americans, and costing $170 billion in health care costs and $151 billion in lost productivity annually. In Pennsylvania, tobacco is responsible for 22,000 deaths each year.