Report finds ‘disturbing failure’ to stop underage smoking, vaping in U.S.

The legal age to buy tobacco should be raised to 21 and flavored e-cigarettes should be removed from the market, the American Lung Association says.

Stricter enforcement is needed to stop the teen vaping epidemic, the American Lung Association said Wednesday in a scathing report that cites the failure of states and the federal government to keep underage kids away from e-cigarettes.

The annual “State of Tobacco Control” report singled out the Food Drug Administration for not taking “decisive action” to stop e-cigarette and tobacco use by teens and adolescents and to remove menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars from the U.S. market.

“This year’s report finds a disturbing failure of the federal government and states to take action to prevent and reduce tobacco use in 2018, placing the health and lives of Americans at risk, including our youth,” the American Lung Association’s national president and CEO, Harold P. Wimmer, said in a statement.

The report grades states and the District of Columbia in five areas that have been proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use, including funding for state tobacco prevention programs and access to smoking cessation services.

The report found that:

  • Forty-three states and the District of Columbia had failing grades regarding prevention programs.
  • Only half of the states and D.C. implemented smoke-free workplace policies.
  • Thirty-seven states and D.C. received a “C” grade or worse in providing coverage and access services that help people quit smoking.
  • Forty states were found to have inadequate policies aimed at enforcing the age of tobacco sales to those over 21 rather than the state age for sale, receiving an “F” grade in this category.

“The FDA’s failure to act has emboldened the tobacco industry, which has become increasingly aggressive in seeking to delay or oppose proven policies,” Wimmer said.

States need to raise their minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21 and remove flavored e-cigarettes from the market, Erika Sward, national assistant vice president for advocacy for the American Lung Association, told NBC News.

In November, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a 78 percent increase in vaping by high school students, translating to 3.6 million high school and middle school students now using e-cigarettes. A separate study recently conducted by the National Institute for Drug Abuse found that one-third of all high school seniors report using a vaping product.


Image: A person smokes an e-cigarette in Brooklyn on July 8, 2018.


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