American Lung Association Fails Illinois For Efforts To Curtail Tobacco Use
The American Lung Association's national “State of Tobacco Report” gives Illinois failing grades in four areas. They include Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs, Level of State Tobacco Taxes, Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco, and Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21.
However, Illinois receives an “A” for its compliance with Smokefree Workplace Laws.
James Martinez, with the American Lung Association, says raising the minimum tobacco purchasing age is critical in reducing the number of smokers in Illinois.
"It may take years for us to prove that this is effective," he said. "But the numbers and the research we have already show that if this law were in place 10 or 15 years ago, a lot of people in their 20's and 30's may not have started smoking to begin with.”
Martinez says residents need to get involved in the effort.
"It’s going to take everyone to raise their voices and engage their elected officials, and let them know, ‘Hey, this is important to us. We really want you to get behind it,’” he said.
Lawmakers have considered efforts in the past, but critics say it violates personal freedom and could have unintended consequences for retailers.
Wisconsin is in similar standing as Illinois, but receives a "B" for its state tobacco taxes; he says Wisconsin's tobacco tax is at $2.52, while Illinois' is $1.98.
Melaney Arnold, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health, commented in response to the ALA National Tobacco Report:
Tobacco prevention and control continue to be important public health issues for Illinois. The America’s Health Rankings report released in December shows that smoking prevalence between 2012 and 2016 decreased at a faster rate in Illinois compared to all other states. Reducing the number of tobacco users, preventing youth from starting to smoke, ensuring access to cessation services, and enforcing the state’s comprehensive Smoke-Free Illinois Act.
Illinois provides funding to local health departments to enforce the Smoke-Free Illinois Act and to develop policy initiatives to prevent tobacco use in local parks, sports complexes, multi-unit public housing, or other areas. Additionally, the State of Illinois provides the American Lung Association $3.1 million annually to operate the Illinois Tobacco Quitline.