American Lung Association gives Colorado D grade for tobacco prevention, use

DENVER — The American Lung Association unveiled its State of Tobacco Control report on Wednesday and gave Colorado a D, citing multiple ways the state didn’t meet its standards for tobacco prevention, funding and limiting access.

The American Lung Association looked at data collected and came up with individual grades for various aspects of Colorado’s tobacco prevention and use:

  • Funding for state tobacco prevention programs: D. The report found Colorado is spending only half of the amount the CDC recommends on prevention programs.
  • Level of state tobacco taxes: F. The American Lung Association says Colorado taxes tobacco lower than most other states.
  • Coverage and access to services to quit tobacco: B.
  • Minimum age of sale of tobacco products: F. The American Lung Association wants to see states increase the age people are allowed to purchase tobacco to 21 years of age.
  • Strength of smoke-free workplace laws: B. The American Lung Association lowered this rating from an A to a B, citing Colorado’s need to add e-cigarettes to its current smoke-free workplace laws.

The American Lung Association says e-cigarette use among teens has hit epidemic levels.

The American Lung Association of Colorado’s executive director, Ellen Penrod, said teens in Colorado were early adopters of e-cigarettes.

Now, studies show the teen vaping rate in Colorado is higher than any other state in the U.S.

“There can be up to three times as much nicotine in a pod as a pack of cigarettes. And what we found is they vape them on a more regular basis throughout the day,” Penrod said.

“Back when you took your smoke break and you had your one cigarette, then you were done and you went back inside. Now kids can puff on them all day and they don’t have to stop.”

Plus, the report says e-cigarettes aren’t taxed in Colorado like a regular pack of cigarettes so the state can’t use the money from e-cigarette taxes for prevention programs like it has for cigarettes.

“Traditional cigarette sales, because of the laws we have in place and the education we have in place, those sales are going down — so those sales aren’t being earned any longer,” Penrod said.

“Unfortunately, those taxes aren’t applied to e-cigarettes, so we aren’t seeing the money come in that we can apply to prevention services.”

Penrod said the key to elevating Colorado’s grade moving forward will come in the form of legislation.

“I think my biggest frustration is the lack of movement we have seen over the past few years,” Penrod said. “We haven’t seen any major legislation come through on tobacco for several years.

“We can sit back and say we have done enough but people still use and they still are being impacted by this, so we need to take a step forward and move the needle more.”

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