American Lung Association gives Utah bad grades regarding tobacco product use among teens

Posted at 10:20 PM, Feb 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-04 11:01:24-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- The American Lung Association released its annual report Wednesday, and Utah gets a failing grade in keeping tobacco out of high school student's hands.

They say while Utah has the lowest smoking rate in the nation, it has one of the highest rates of teen e-cigarette usage.

The American Lung Association says 1 in 4 students in Utah are using tobacco products. The state's report card says Utah got an "F" in tobacco prevention and control program funding, an "F" in access to cessation services, and a "D" in tobacco taxes.

"That really raises a lot of alarms for us, they're really trading a cigarette for other tobacco products," said Jamie Riccobono, Executive Director for the American Lung Association in Utah.

Aaron Frazier, Executive Director of Utah's Smoke Free Association, said he had hoped the state's efforts would have resulted in a better grade.

"It is disappointing the state of Utah did not get a better grade considering all the work the state does, and everything we do as an industry, to combat the smoking problem," he said.

While many point the blame at the e-cig industry, they say they're doing all they can to keep the products out of the hands of students.

"We're against underage usage," Frazier said. "We're going to be introducing language in this year's legislative session to try and put a stop to it, not only in our industry, we want it stopped everywhere."

Riccobono said: "If we can do something to stop it, then why aren't we? Why don't we doing everything we can to stop it?"

One thing Riccobono says the state could do is put more funding toward prevention and control programming. Right now, the state uses only 44 percent of what the American Lung Association recommends for education.