Georgia ranks as one of the worst states in the country for its tobacco-use policies, according to a new report from the American Lung Association (ALA).

“Georgia lags behind when it comes to tobacco control policies, and as a result, we have higher than average adult smoking rates at 15% and 21% of high school students use a tobacco product,” said Danna Thompson, director of advocacy at the ALA in Georgia.

The ALA released its annual State of Tobacco Control Report on Jan. 25. The report evaluates policies on actions taken to eliminate tobacco use and recommends tobacco control laws and policies.

In this year’s report, Georgia has failed four of five evaluation categories. In the 2023 report, the state received the following grades:

  • Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
  • Strength of Smoke-Free Workplace Laws – Grade D
  • Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade F
  • Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade F
  • Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products – Grade F

Federal grades

The report also grades the federal government on its efforts to eliminate tobacco use.

This year, there were new steps taken by the federal government to prevent and reduce tobacco use, including proposed rules to end the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.

The U.S. Congress also passed a law requiring the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate tobacco products made with synthetic nicotine and increased federal enforcement of the Tobacco Control Act.

As a result of these steps forward, the federal government’s grade in the Federal Regulation of Tobacco Products category has improved from a ‘D’ grade last year, to a ‘C’ grade in the 2023 report.

The report grades the federal government in five areas:

  • Federal Government Regulation of Tobacco Products – Grade C
  • Federal Coverage of Quit Smoking Treatments – Grade D
  • Level of Federal Tobacco Taxes – Grade F
  • Federal Mass Media Campaigns to Prevent and Reduce Tobacco Use – Grade A
  • Federal Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Incomplete

The FDA is overdue in publishing the final Tobacco 21 regulations as required by statute, which is why it earns an incomplete.

ALA’s recommendations

The ALA recommends Georgia lawmakers focus on the dangers of secondhand smoke by closing gaps in Georgia’s smoke-free air law.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. The ALA suggests passing a comprehensive smoke-free law that eliminates smoking in all public places would help to better protect the public from secondhand smoke.

The association also recommends e-cigarettes also be included in the new policies.

“This gives us an important opportunity to improve the health of our state through proven policies, such as strengthening the Georgia Smokefree Air Act to include smoke-free protections for all workplaces and public places, as well as significantly increasing the state tobacco tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products,” said Thompson.

According to the ALA, increasing the tax on all tobacco products is one of the most effective ways to reduce use.

Multiple studies have shown that every 10% increase in the price of cigarettes reduces consumption by about four percent among adults and about seven percent among youth.

Georgia has not significantly increased its tobacco tax since 2003. The ALA recommends increasing the cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack with a parallel increase on other tobacco products.

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