Although fewer US adults are smoking cigarettes than ever, smoking remains the cause of the most preventable disability and death, and the nation’s smoking regulations are getting mixed grades from the American Lung Association.
The association’s annual State of Tobacco Control report, published Wednesday, gives the federal government an A grade for its media campaigns that encourage people to quit smoking or vaping, or to avoid starting in the first place.
But the government gets a failing grade for its tobacco tax policy. Taxes are considered one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking, particularly among children, studies have found. However, Congress hasn’t raised federal tobacco taxes in 14 years. The federal cigarette tax remains $1.01 per pack, and taxes vary for other tobacco products. No state increased its cigarette taxes in 2022, either.
“There is still much room for improvement,” said Erika Sward, assistant vice president of national advocacy for the American Lung Association.
Fewer adults used e-cigarettes from 2019 to 2020, the report says. Cigarette smoking rates among adults in 2022 were the lowest ever recorded. But in some communities – including Native Americans, Alaska Natives and members of the LGBTQ community – rates remain “alarmingly high,” according to the report.
The government took several notable steps to prevent and reduce tobacco use in 2022, according to the group.
In April, the FDA proposed eliminating two tobacco products popular with children: flavored cigars and menthol cigarettes. But it could be years before that becomes a reality. Even if the rule is finalized this year, manufacturers will probably sue to keep it from going into effect.
Tobacco companies have long used menthol to mask the unpleasant flavors of their products. Studies show that it makes the products more attractive to new users and makes it harder for people to quit.
The American Lung Association says it will take many more significant law enforcement actions to end the youth vaping epidemic.
In 2022, nearly 17% of high school students – or more than 2.14 million high schoolers – reported that they currently used e-cigarettes, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And 1 out of every 30 middle school students, about 3.3%, said that they used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days. For high schoolers, it was 1 in 7 students, the CDC said.
The American Lung Association urges the FDA to finalize the menthol rule quickly and says it hopes the agency will finalize its review of all premarket applications for both tobacco-derived and synthetic nicotine products.