The American Lung Association in Pennsylvania hosted hundreds of youth and adult lung health and tobacco control advocates from TRU (Tobacco Resistance Unit) and PACT (Pennsylvania Alliance to Tobacco Control) at the annual Day at the Capitol. The event has been virtual since 2020 but returned to an on-site event this year. Participants from across the state met with lawmakers and urged them to act immediately in closing the loopholes in the Clean Indoor Air Act.
“Pennsylvania lags behind when it comes to tobacco control policies and Day at the Capitol gives us an important opportunity to work with our legislators and urge them to improve the health of our state through proven policies, such as closing the loopholes in the state’s Clean Indoor Act as well as preserving state funding for comprehensive tobacco prevention and control programs,” said Aimee Van Cleave, Advocacy Director of the American Lung Association.
Day at the Capitol takes place annually with TRU members from across Pennsylvania and other adult lung health advocates to educate lawmakers about current tobacco control issues. This year, advocates focused on the need for comprehensive clean indoor air policies and continued tobacco control funding.
“All workers deserve to be protected from the harmful pollutants, including carcinogens, of secondhand smoke exposure. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania’s law still leaves many workers in the hospitality industry and their patrons exposed. Only by enacting comprehensive clean indoor air legislation can we give all Pennsylvania workers the protection they deserve,” said Van Cleave.
Comprehensive clean indoor air legislation would prohibit smoking in all indoor workplaces and public places, with no exceptions. A comprehensive clean indoor air law would protect all workers and the public from the harms of secondhand smoke and e-cigarette aerosol exposure and would provide a level playing field for all businesses across the Commonwealth.
Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and in Pennsylvania. “To address this enormous toll, the American Lung Association calls for Pennsylvania’s elected officials to maintain level state funding for comprehensive tobacco prevention and control programs,” said VanCleave. In the annual State of Tobacco Control 2023 report, the Lung Association gave Pennsylvania an “F” for tobacco prevention and control funding and cites that the Commonwealth currently spends only12.8% of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended level to address these issues.
In Pennsylvania, adult smoking rates are 14.4% and high school tobacco use rates are 26.7%, with an estimated 22,010 per year smoking attributable deaths in the state, youth are becoming the next generation addicted to tobacco with more than 2.5 million high school and middle school students using e-cigarettes across the U.S.
Despite Pennsylvania receiving tobacco related revenue of $1,591,600,000 annually from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, the state funds tobacco control efforts at only 12.8% of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Smoking is estimated to cost the state nearly $6.4 billion in direct healthcare costs. Evidence based and comprehensive tobacco control programs that are sustained and accountable have been shown to reduce tobacco use rates, as well as tobacco related disease and deaths.
Alexandra Kazysta, senior at Riverside Junior-Senior High School in Lackawanna County,said,“with the booming popularity of e-cigarettes and shrewd marketing by tobacco companies, my generation is increasingly exposed to addictive substances at an early age. We are particularly vulnerable to manipulative social marketing and social pressure, and there have been astounding tobacco usage rates among both high school and middle school students with the National Youth Tobacco Survey data showing that more than 2.5 million middle and high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the last 30 days.”
“Smoking culture has not diminished—instead, it has evolved with e-cigarettes, an unfortunate testament to the dominance of the tobacco industry. It makes sense to address this harmful trend by earmarking a portion of tobacco taxes andusing for drug-resistance support as potential approaches to ensure that tobacco prevention and control programs are funded in Pennsylvania,” said Kazysta.