Local Government Needs Ability to Improve Health by Reducing Tobacco Use
City and county governments often can respond to local health threats more quickly and effectively than states or the federal government, and that's been proven the case in communities around the country for tobacco-product control. Local elected officials are closer to their constituents and understand the policies for reducing tobacco use that will work in their area.
Communities across the country have cut their smoking rates with local laws that require health warnings on tobacco displays, set a limit on how many tobacco retailers can operate in a given area, and establish buffer zones between tobacco retailers and schools or playgrounds, for example.
In Kentucky, however, local governments are prohibited - or preempted - by state law from regulating how tobacco products are marketed and sold in their communities. The Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow steering committee has decided to add changing that state law to its legislative agenda for 2021.
Laws like the one in Kentucky that preempt local tobacco control have been a key tool of large tobacco manu-facturers since at least 1985 to prevent local efforts to reduce tobacco use or to enact local ordinances that are stronger and more effective than statewide laws. By 1996, 31 states including Kentucky had adopted preemption laws.
The National Academies of Medicine and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend eliminating state laws that preempt stronger local laws governing tobacco products. Stay tuned for more updates later this year about the Coalition's campaign to allow local control of tobacco marketing and sales.
FDA Targets E-Cigarette Accessories that Appeal to Kids
Kid-friendly products that promote the use of e-cigarettes were the target of warning letters from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April, according to an FDA news release. Among the products prohibited by the agency are e-cigarettes that resemble children's toys such as fidget spinners and portable video gaming systems, a backpack and sweatshirt designed with stealth pockets to hold and conceal an e-cigarette, and e-liquids that imitate packaging for food products that often are marketed and appeal to youth, such as candy, or feature cartoon characters like SpongeBob SquarePants.
"The FDA is especially disturbed by some of these new products being marketed to children and teens by promoting the ease with which they can be used to conceal product use, which appeals to kids because it allows them to conceal tobacco product use from parents, teachers, law enforcement or other adults," said Mitch Zeller, J.D., director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products.
The warning letters notify the retailers and manufacturers that the products are adulterated and misbranded, and that selling or distributing these products to customers in the U.S. is prohibited under the FD&C Act.
"The public should really be outraged by these products," Zeller said.
Cigarette Sales Drop as Pandemic Continues; More Evidence Emerges that Smoking Worsens COVID-19
After an initial increase in national cigarette sales in March that was attributed to consumer stock-piling as states began implementing stay-at-home measures, sales dropped markedly in April. According to a story in the Winston-Salem Journal, traditional cigarette sales fell 8.4 percent for the week ending April 4, 2020, compared to the same week in 2019. E-cigarette sales declined in April as well, although they remain up for the year overall.
Similarly in Kentucky, cigarette tax receipts declined 21.1 percent in April after growing 52.5 percent in March.
Meanwhile, more evidence emerged that smoking worsens COVID-19. A University of California at San Francisco analysis of studies covering 11,590 COVID patients found that smoking nearly doubles the risk of disease progression. Current and former smokers also had more acute or critical conditions and were more likely to die. The analysis also refuted a single study's conclusion that nicotine is a protective factor, citing numerous faults in the study including that one of the authors has ties to the tobacco industry.
More Delays in Important Tobacco Control Regulations
The FDA is working to push back deadlines for regulations governing long-awaited graphic warnings on cigarettes, and for applications to continue selling e-cigarettes without a government review. Meanwhile, the tobacco industry is fighting the graphic warnings, which were required under a 2009 law but have yet to go into effect. See more from the Public Health Law Center here.
The Center offers myriad helpful resources, including a list of all e-cigarette regulations by topic and state here.
Partners and Member Events
Hodgenville Goes Smoke-Free
The small city of Hodgenville in LaRue County has adopted a comprehensive smoke-free policy to protect workers and customers from the dangers of secondhand smoke and e-cigarette aerosol in indoor workplaces and public spaces, The News Enterprise reports. Congratulations to the Lincoln Trail District Health Department and the City Council for their work on this important health measure. The measure was adopted April 23, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic
Health Advocates Encourage Quitting Smoking During Pandemic
Research shows that quitting smoking leads rapidly to better lung function, so health advocates are encouraging smokers who want to quit to give it another try during the COVID-19 pandemic. Free resources and information are available to help:
1-800-QUIT NOW - Call for free support
Truth Initiative: Quit Smoking and Vaping Tools
My Life, My Quit: A free coaching service to help teens to quit e-cigarettes - Call 855-891-9989 or text START MY QUIT to 855-891-9989
This is Quitting: A free text-message based service for teens available 24/7; to sign-up, text KENTUCKY to 88709.
Members/Partners in the News
Opinion: Since coronavirus attacks airways, it's important to stay 'lung healthy' at home
Bill to tax electronic cigarettes at 15% goes to governor; health advocates say it will decrease young people's use of the products
E-cigarettes could be just as bad for your heart as regular cigarettes, study finds
New Resources from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids - COVID-19: Stop Smoking and Vaping to Protect Your Lungs
Want to join us?
Does your organization want to help make Kentucky healthier by reducing tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke? Click here to join our Coalition. Or email Alexa Kerley, firstname.lastname@example.org. It's FREE to join!