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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Montana Tobacco Policies Get Mixed Marks From The American Lung Association

The American Lung Association's 2021 State of Tobacco Control report grades for Montana.
The American Lung Association's 2021 State of Tobacco Control report grades for Montana.

Montana has earned mixed marks on a new report card from the American Lung Association, one that grades state policies meant to prevent and reduce tobacco use.

The Association’s Carrie Nyssen said three F’s, a B and an A would have gotten her in lots of trouble back in her school days.

“I would have been grounded until I was 70 years old," she said. "It's just not acceptable."

Those were the grades Montana earned on the group’s 19th annual ‘State of Tobacco Control’ report released Wednesday. It graded states in five areas that, according to the American Lung Association, are proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use and save lives.

Despite a recent tobacco tax settlement that will bring over $100 million to state coffers, Montana earned an F for Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Funding. The Association said the state only funds tobacco control efforts at 42% of the level recommended by the CDC.

“The Montana tobacco program is underfunded, but they do a great job with their resources," Nyssen said. "But now with this E-cigarette pandemic, we have much more work to do to make sure that we stop kids from using those devices."

The Association's report card flunks Montana for its cigarette tax of $1.70 a pack. The organization says there’s room to raise that tax in order to discourage new smokers and encourage existing smokers to kick the habit. In 2018, Montana voters rejected a tax increase on tobacco products.

Montana also earns an F on the report's newest category: ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products. Critics say flavored tobacco attracts minors and is used in higher proportions by children of color and LGBTQ youth.

This week Missoula officials postponed a ban on all local flavored vape and e-cigarette sales following a legal challenge.

A bill advancing in the Montana Legislature would prevent local and state health officials from regulating vape products. Vape retailers assert government has no right to prevent them from selling legal vape products to adults.

The American Lung Association report card gives Montana a B for its tobacco cessation services and an A for the strength of its smoke-free workplace laws.

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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