HARRISBURG, PA — On Tuesday, May 4, the American Lung Association in Pennsylvania will virtually host hundreds of youth and adult lung health and tobacco control advocates from TRU (Tobacco Resistance Unit) and PACT (Pennsylvania Alliance to Control Tobacco) at the Day at the Capitol and Community Forum. The event includes legislative visits urging Pennsylvania lawmakers to support allocating level state funding for comprehensive tobacco prevention and cessation programs that are critical to saving Pennsylvania lives, protecting our youth from a lifetime of tobacco addiction and reducing healthcare costs. Advocates will also urge legislators to close the loopholes in Pennsylvania’s Clean Indoor Act to eliminate secondhand smoke exposure.
The Day at the Capitol is traditionally held at the State Capitol building in Harrisburg, PA. Due to the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 event will be conducted virtually so that these important messages can be heard while protecting the health and safety of participants. The legislative visits will conclude with the Community Forum featuring advocacy, legislative and lung health expert speakers and interactive and educational tobacco prevention and lung health booths that are free and open to the public.
Tobacco use remains the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 480,000 lives every year, and our youth are becoming the next generation addicted to tobacco with more than 1 in 5 teens vaping across the U.S.
In Pennsylvania adult smoking rates are 17.3% and high school tobacco use rates are 26.7%, with an estimated 22,020 per year smoking attributable deaths in the state. Despite Pennsylvania receiving tobacco-related revenue of $1,618,700,000 annually from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, the state funds tobacco control efforts at only 12.2% of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). “Pennsylvania’s tobacco settlement funds should be used to support the health of our communities by preventing youth tobacco use, helping tobacco users quit, and eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke,” said American Lung Association Chief Mission Officer Deborah Brown.
“The surge in youth vaping combined with the fact that smoking increases the chance of severe COVID-19 symptoms, makes it more important than ever for Pennsylvania legislatures to take significant steps to reduce tobacco use by maintaining level-state funding of $13.754 million for tobacco prevention and cessation programs,” said Brown. “Passing a comprehensive law that eliminates smoking, including e-cigarettes in all public places would also benefit the health of Pennsylvanians and protect workers across the state from deadly secondhand smoke,” Brown continued.
In Pennsylvania, smoking is estimated to cost over $6,383,194,368 in direct healthcare costs. Evidence based statewide tobacco control programs that are comprehensive, sustained and accountable have been shown to reduce tobacco use rates, as well as tobacco related disease and deaths.
“Elected officials can and should do more to save lives and ensure all Pennsylvanians benefit from reductions in tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. The tobacco industry has targeted kids with flavored tobacco products and messaging, skyrocketing e-cigarette use among youth to epidemic levels. Pennsylvanians need support when they’re ready to quit with proven quit smoking treatments. We’re meeting with state legislators this May 4th and asking them for help to end tobacco addiction, eliminate secondhand smoke exposure, cut healthcare costs, and most importantly, save lives and future generations,” said Brown.
The Day at the Capitol virtual Community Forum will be held after the legislative visits on Tuesday, May 4, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. EST. Register to attend at PACTOnline.org.
Learn more about smokefree efforts in the Commonwealth in the American Lung Association’s ‘2021 State of Tobacco Control‘ report.
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