The American Lung Association’s 20th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report reveals significant progress in the work to end tobacco use, but products like e-cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, create concern for losing another generation to nicotine addiction. The report finds that California has made progress on passing policies to reduce and prevent tobacco use, including e-cigarettes. 

The “State of Tobacco Control” report evaluates state and federal policymakers on actions taken to eliminate tobacco use, the nation’s leading cause of preventable death. The report recommends proven-effective tobacco control laws and policies to save lives. The 2022 “State of Tobacco Control” reveals that the country has made substantial progress in advancing tobacco control policies over the past 20 years, including comprehensive smokefree laws in more states, increased tobacco taxes across the nation and more Americans with access to treatments to help them quit smoking through state Medicaid programs. 

In addition to the federal report, the “State of Tobacco Control California Local Grades” report highlights localities across the state—all cities and counties—and how their tobacco control policies rank. While some jurisdictions have shown great progress, there is still room for others to improve. The report largely focuses on the sale of flavored tobacco products—a vital undertaking given the SB 793 referendum of 2020, which would prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products across the state. 

Here in California over the last 20 years, lawmakers have made significant strides to reduce tobacco use, like increased tobacco and e-cigarette taxes, increased funding for cessation programs, and the passage of SB 793 which would have prohibited the sale of flavored tobacco products across the state. However, there is more work to be done. The smoking rate is still 8.9%, and the high school tobacco use rate is 12.7%. In addition, flavored tobacco products still remain on the shelves in many California jurisdictions. The opportunity to remove these dangerous products off the shelves is critical. 

“While we have seen considerable progress in California, tobacco use remains our leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 39,950 lives each year,” said Erica Costa, Advocacy Director at the American Lung Association in California. “And our progress on tobacco control policy has not been equal. We continue to see the unequal burden of tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke in communities experiencing health disparities.”

California’s Grades 

“State of Tobacco Control” 2022 grades states and the District of Columbia in five areas that have been proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use and save lives. California received the following grades: 
1.    Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade B
2.    Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade A
3.    Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade B
4.    Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade B
5.    Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products   – Grade I (Incomplete due to referendum petition filed against SB 793 law to restrict sale of flavored tobacco product)

This year’s report noted the need for California policymakers to focus on…ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. According to the 2021 National Youth Tobacco Survey, more than two million high school and middle school students use e-cigarettes, and over 80% of those kids use flavored e-cigarettes. In addition, menthol cigarettes continue to be the major cause of tobacco-related death and disease in Black communities, with nearly 81% of Black Americans who smoke using them. Ending the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol, will not only help end youth vaping, but will also help address the disproportionate impact of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars have on many communities, including Black Americans, LGBTQ+ Americans and youth.  

“Kids follow the flavors, so ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products in California is key to ending youth tobacco use. We call on legislators in Sacramento to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol, across California,” said Costa.
Federal Grades Overview
“State of Tobacco Control” 2022 also grades the federal government in five areas: 
•    Federal Government Regulation of Tobacco Products (2022 grade – D)
•    Federal Coverage of Quit Smoking Treatments (2022 grade – D)
•    Level of Federal Tobacco Taxes (2022 grade – F)
•    Federal Mass Media Campaigns to Prevent and Reduce Tobacco Use (2022 grade – A)
•    Federal Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 (2022 grade – I*)

* The Incomplete grade is for the FDA being more than 18 months overdue in publishing the final Tobacco 21 regulations as required by statute.

“In 2022, California needs to redouble its efforts to pass the proven policies called for in ‘State of Tobacco Control’ to help end tobacco use. We cannot afford to wait 20 more years and allow another generation to suffer from tobacco-caused addiction, disease and death. This is why it is so critical to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco in California,” said Costa.