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American Lung Association Gives PA Failing Grade For Reducing Tobacco Use

Pennsylvania is one of two states without a cigar tax. A new report from the American Lung Association says that can have an effect on youth.

Last year, Pennsylvania lawmakers increased the cigarette tax by $1 per pack, chewing tobacco by 55 cents and electronic cigarettes by 40 cents. The legislature decided, again, to not add a cigar tax.

“What happens is, if you don’t have an equal tax on these other tobacco products, young people will start to look at those products and will start purchasing those products because they are cheaper and will become addicted,” said Deb Brown, president and CEO of the mid-Atlantic branch of the ALA. 

The ALA's report, 'The State Of Tobacco Control", was released on Wednesday.

Cigar manufacturing is a thriving industry in the commonwealth, with companies based in King of Prussia and Lancaster.

Senator Pat Browne, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, told the Philadelphia Inquirer in July that if cigars were taxed, “you are essentially destroying a partnership that will encourage that business to vacate, to leave.” Browne did not respond to calls for a response to the ALA report.

The American Lung Association gave Pennsylvania a “D” in a recent report when it comes to the state’s tobacco taxes. The state received an “F” for funding for prevention programs, services to quit tobacco and minimum age of sale. The commonwealth received a “C” for the strength of smokefree workplace laws.

According to the ALA, 18 percent of PA adults and 10 percent of high school students smoke.

The ALA is presenting a set of measures called the Youth Tobacco Prevention Package, which includes increasing the purchasing age of products to 21. “We know what works when it comes to preventing and reducing tobacco use,” Brown said.

The American Lung Association reports that 95 percent of adult smokers tried their first cigarette before the age of 21. Hawaii, California and DC have passed laws to increase the purchasing age to 21.

Because tobacco is still the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the country, Brown says her organization is also pushing for the state to significantly increase the amount of money it spends on programs to prevent minors from using tobacco.

Photo via Leonidas Tsementzis/ Flickr