PORTSMOUTH — The youth vaping epidemic showed no signs of abating in 2019 with high school e-cigarette use increasing by 135 percent over the past two years. In New Hampshire, nearly a third of high school students use tobacco.

These are among the findings of this year’s “State of Tobacco Control” report from the American Lung Association, which calls for tobacco control policies to respond to the country’s worsening youth vaping epidemic.

Overall the lung association gave the Granite State’s grades of three Fs and two Ds, which it said signals a failure to support public health.

The report notes that important steps forward were taken to address the worsening public health challenge in 2019, such as increasing the tobacco sales age to 21 — first in many states and then nationwide — but overall it found that the country failed to do what was necessary to avert the crisis.

Tobacco use remains the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 480,000 lives every year.

The American Lung Association's report says the increase in young people using tobacco products is a result of states’ and the federal government’s failure to enact policies called such as increased tobacco taxes and stronger federal oversight of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

This year’s 18th annual report finds that in 2019 New Hampshire had little to no progress on its efforts to reduce and prevent tobacco use, including e-cigarettes.

The need for New Hampshire to take action to protect youth from all tobacco products is more urgent than ever, with the youth vaping epidemic continuing its alarming rise to 27.5 percent or more than one in four high school students.

This is a staggering 135 percent increase in high school e-cigarette use in just the past two years, and close to three million more kids started vaping in that time period, setting them up for a lifetime of addiction.

“In New Hampshire, our high school tobacco use rates remain at 30.3 percent — the highest in the northeast, and higher than the national average. Sadly, with the youth vaping epidemic still rising, we may have lost an opportunity to make the current generation of kids the first tobacco-free generation,” said American Lung Association Senior Division Director for State Public Policy Lance Boucher. “Tobacco use is a serious addiction and New Hampshire needs to implement the proven measures to prevent and reduce tobacco use outlined in ‘State of Tobacco Control.”

The 18th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report grades states and the federal government on policies proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use. The report finds that while New Hampshire did successfully pass legislation restricting e-cigarette use in public spaces and forcing retailers to obtain licenses, the state failed to act on several proposals and initiatives that could save lives and ensure all New Hampshire residents benefit from reductions in tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke.

New Hampshire Grades:

• Funding for state tobacco prevention programs — F.

• Strength of smokefree workplace laws — D.

• Level of state tobacco taxes — F.

• Coverage and access to services to quit tobacco — D.

• Minimum age of sale for tobacco products to 21 — F.

The American Lung Association encourages New Hampshire to put in place all the public policies called for in “State of Tobacco Control,” and in particular, this year’s report noted the need to focus on increasing funding for tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs. An investment in prevention is especially important given the skyrocketing number of youth who are vaping.

“Despite New Hampshire receiving $245.3 million from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, the state funds tobacco control efforts at only 13.2 percent of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The American Lung Association believes the funds should be used to support the health of our communities, and to prevent tobacco use and help smokers quit, not switch,” said Boucher.

The report also noted New Hampshire’s failed attempts to equalize the e-cigarette tax with other tobacco products, and raise the age of sale to 21.

Multiple studies have shown that every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces consumption by about 4 percent among adults and about 7 percent among youth.

“To protect kids from a lifetime of nicotine addiction, the Lung Association encourages New Hampshire to increase cigarette taxes and equalize the tax on other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes with its cigarette tax. These steps are critical to New Hampshire as current tobacco use, including vaping, among youth is higher than the national average,” said Boucher.

“State of Tobacco Control 2020 provides an important roadmap on how states like New Hampshire and the federal government can put in place the policies proven to have the greatest impact on reducing tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. Now is the time for lawmakers in New Hampshire end their failure to act and take this opportunity to achieve lasting reductions in tobacco-related death and disease,” said Boucher.

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