PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Every year, the American Lung Association (ALA) releases its “State of Tobacco Control” report, assigning letter grades to each state for specific areas of tobacco control.

This year’s report reveals significant progress in the work to end tobacco use, but products like e-cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products are creating concerns.

Although Rhode Island earned mixed grades, it maintained an “F” grade on tobacco control funding and a nearly failing “D” on its regulation of flavored tobacco products, the ALA said.

The ALA says the country has made substantial progress in advancing tobacco control policies over the past 20 years. In Rhode Island, lawmakers have made significant strides to reduce tobacco use, according to the ALA, but there is still more work to be done.

The adult smoking rate is still 13.5%, and the high school tobacco use rate is 33.3%, according to the ALA. Smoking currently costs the Ocean State more than $639 million and more than 1,700 Rhode Island lives annually.

The ALA calls on Rhode Island policymakers to refocus on ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products in the state.

“Kids follow the flavors, so ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products in Rhode Island is key to ending youth tobacco use. We call on legislators in Providence to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol,” Daniel Fitzgerald, director of advocacy for the ALA in Rhode Island, said.

Rhode Island Grades:

  • Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade: F
  • Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade: A
  • Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade: B
  • Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade: B
  • Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade: D

Additionally, the report also highlights the importance of increasing funding for tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs.

Fitzgerald says that despite receiving over $205 million from tobacco taxes, Rhode Island only funds tobacco control efforts 13% of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended level.

“The Lung Association believes the State’s tobacco-related revenue should be used to support the health of our communities and to prevent tobacco use and help people quit, and not switch to e-cigarettes,” Fitzgerald said. “These programs are also critical for helping to end tobacco-related health disparities.”