North Carolina named one of worst states for tobacco use, prevention

CHARLOTTE — North Carolina has been listed as one of the worst states when it comes to policy prevention and reduction of tobacco use, according to a report from the American Lung Association.

The State of Tobacco Control report evaluates state and federal policies on actions taken to eliminate tobacco use and recommends proven-effective tobacco control laws and policies to save lives.

The report, released Wednesday, said the state earned all failing grades.

“North Carolina lags behind when it comes to tobacco control policies, and as a result, we have higher than average adult smoking rates at 14.4% and 27.3% of high school students use a tobacco product,” Danna Thompson, Director of Advocacy at the American Lung Association in North Carolina, said. “This gives us an important opportunity to improve the health of our state through proven policies, such as funding our state tobacco prevention and control programs to continue the successful prevention, education and quit smoking efforts across the state.”

The State of Tobacco Control report grades states in five areas. In the 2023 report, North Carolina received the following grades:

  • Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
  • Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade F
  • 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

This year’s report said North Carolina policymakers need to focus on increasing funding for tobacco prevention and quit-smoking programs.

Despite receiving $458,600,000 from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, the state only funds tobacco control efforts at 15.9% of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The American Lung Association said it believes the funds should be used to support the health of our communities, as well as to prevent tobacco use and help people quit, and not switch to e-cigarettes.

The report said these programs are also critical for helping to end tobacco-related health disparities.

The State of Tobacco Control report also grades the federal government on its efforts to eliminate tobacco use.

This year, there were new steps taken by the government to prevent and reduce tobacco use, including proposed rules to end the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, Congress passing a law requiring the 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 for “Federal Regulation of Tobacco Products” improved from a “D” to a “C” grade, according to the report.

In the 2023 report, the federal government received the following grades:

  • 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 report said the FDA is overdue in publishing the final Tobacco 21 regulations as required by statute, which is why it earns an “incomplete.”

To learn more about this year’s State of Tobacco Control grades, click here.

(WATCH BELOW: Video shows teacher smoking inside CMS middle academy, student says)