CLEVELAND — The American Lung Association (ALA) released its 20th annual 'State of Tobacco Control' report overnight. For the second year in a row, Ohio received mostly failing grades.
The report states tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease across the United States and in Ohio.
"We have to get these products out of the hands of kids. We need to stop the youth vaping epidemic," said Ken Fletcher, the director of advocacy for the ALA.
According to the report, Ohio received three 'F' grades from ALA in addition to one 'A' and one 'B'. The three failing grades included: Tobacco Prevention and Control Program Funding, Tobacco Taxes and Flavored Tobacco Products.
In Ohio, the tax rate per pack of 20 cigarettes is $1.60.
"We know that raising tobacco taxes is a proven strategy to help get people to quit smoking," said Fletcher. "The more you raise that price, the more you keep it out of the hands of minors."
To address Ohio's issues, the ALA is asking state elected officials to:
- Match the tax on non-cigarette forms of tobacco like spit tobacco, cigars and hookah to the cigarette tax
- Prohibit flavorings for all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes
- Increase funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs to bring it closer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s recommendation for Ohio.
"Those who are vaping 80% or say they buy the flavors of the fruity flavors that are being sold and marketed specifically to those to the kids," Fletcher said.
However, the use of e-cigarettes is a nationwide issue.
According to the 2021 National Youth Tobacco Survey, more than two million high school and middle school students reported use of e-cigarettes and of that nearly 85% reported using flavored e-cigarettes.
This is worrisome for local doctors at Cleveland Clinic's Children's Hospital.
"The nicotine that is in e-cigarettes is not less harmful. It might be even more harmful," said Dr. Fariba Rezaee, a pediatric pulmonologist at the Cleveland Clinic Children's. "We don't know what's the short term and long term effect of the e-cigarette on the mental health."
She is calling on lawmakers to step up.
"I urge the policymakers to make it a priority, especially in light of the vaping associated products that come with the flavoring."
Click here to read the full 'State of Tobacco Control' report.