Iowa is getting a failing report card for its efforts to reduce the use of tobacco products, according to the American Lung Association’s 18th annual State of Tobacco Control report.
Beth Turner, manager of health promotions for the American Lung Association in Iowa, says Iowa got F-grades in three of the report’s five key categories. “Funding for state tobacco prevention efforts, Iowa received a failing grade,” Turner says. “Also, level of state tobacco taxes, which again, Iowa received another F for. Minimum sale for tobacco to 21, Iowa received an F in that category as well.”
Iowa earned a D-grade for coverage and access to quit tobacco resources and a single A-grade for the strength of smokefree workplaces. That’s three Fs, a D and an A. “I think if any young person was to take this report card to their parent, they would be extremely disappointed in them,” Turner says. “We definitely have a majority failing report card for the state of Iowa so we really have a lot of work to do when it comes to tobacco prevention.”
While the number of Iowa adults who smoke is dropping, now at around 17%, the number of young people who vape is rising dramatically. “The e-cigarette use among high schoolers has actually jumped about 135% from 2017 to 2019 which is a staggering increase among our young people,” Turner says.
About one in three high school students say they vape on a daily basis, according to the latest report. Iowa legislators are considering two measures that would toughen Iowa’s tobacco prevention efforts. One bill would follow the federal mandate to raise the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21.
The other measure would add the use of e-cigarettes to Iowa’s Smokefree Air Act, barring their use in most public places.
“In 2016, the Surgeon General concluded that second-hand emissions from e-cigarettes contain a dangerous cocktail of chemicals,” Turner says. “Some of those include ultrafine particulates, heavy metals and lead. Allowing that to be a part of our Smokefree Air Act really increases the comprehensiveness and reduces second-hand exposure through those products as well.”
Iowa’s current state tax on cigarettes is $1.36 per pack. Turner says an effort is underway to raise that rate by $1.50 per pack. She says studies find a 10-percent increase in tobacco taxes results in a four-percent drop in consumption among adults and a seven-percent reduction in youth. See the full report at www.lung.org.