A new report from the American Lung Association finds Florida needs to do more to reduce tobacco use statewide.
According to the “State of Tobacco Control” report, Florida earned failing grades in several categories, including its efforts to reduce and prevent tobacco use.
The American Lung Association says tobacco use is still the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 480,000 lives every year.
The organization wants Florida leaders to tackle tobacco use by putting more of a focus on e-cigarette use -- which officials say is now an epidemic among young people.
Youth e-cigarette use rose 78 percent among high school students from 2017 to 2018, according to results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey.
ALA officials said that equals 1 million additional kids beginning to use e-cigarettes, placing their developing bodies and lungs at risk from the chemicals in e-cigarettes as well as a lifetime of addiction to a deadly product.
The startling numbers prompted the U.S. Surgeon General to declare e-cigarette use among young people an epidemic in an advisory issued in December 2018.
Under Florida law, smoking is not allowed inside most businesses and restaurants, and state voters took the first step to eliminate secondhand e-cigarette emissions by approving an amendment last year to ban vaping and e-cigarette use indoors.
“Opportunities for better health begin where people work, live and play, and a person should not have to be exposed to the dangers of secondhand smoke and secondhand e-cigarette emissions to put food on the table,” said American Lung Association Director of Advocacy Ashley Lyerly.
Officials said the “State of Tobacco Control” report, which is in its 17th year, grades states and the federal government on policies proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use.
The report found that while Florida has taken significant steps to reduce tobacco use, including the passage of Amendment 9, the state didn't measure up in most key areas:
- Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs -- Grade F
- Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws -- Grade B
- Level of State Tobacco Taxes -- Grade F
- Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco -- Grade F
- Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 -- Grade F
The American Lung Association is calling on Florida leaders to follow up the passage of Amendment 9 by strengthening the state's Clean Indoor Air Act by removing exemptions. The organization also wants Florida to increase tobacco control funding to levels recommended by the CDC.
And the ALA wants the minimum age for sale of tobacco products raised from 18 to 21 in Florida.
This spring, Florida lawmakers will discuss a bill that would make it illegal to smoke on public beaches.