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American Lung Association blasts Utah for poor control of e-cigs among youth

By Mark Shenefelt - | Feb 3, 2016
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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah is flunking in efforts to save lives through better controls against tobacco products, including the boom in e-cigarette use among teens, a health group charged Wednesday.

In its 14th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, the American Lung Association said Utah and other states, as well as the federal government, are not meeting the health threat posed by the high level of young people using tobacco products other than cigarettes. The association said this is undermining overall progress in the fight against tobacco-caused death and disease.

“Utah is missing a clear opportunity to save lives by not taking action to prevent and reduce tobacco use. We must also face the reality that youth use of other tobacco products nationwide like e-cigarettes and little cigars is at an all-time high,” said Jamie Riccobono, executive director of the American Lung Association in Utah, in a news release.

In August 2015, state health officials sounded the alarm about a report that showed e-cigarette use among Utah’s youth nearly doubled between 2013 and 2015, the Associated Press reported. That brought the percentage of Utah’s youth using the devices to 10.5 percent, the AP reported.

The association gave Utah these grades and urged Gov. Gary Herbert and the Legislature to respond to the problem:

  • Tobacco prevention and control program funding – Grade F
  • Tobacco taxes — Grade D

  • Smokefree air — Grade A

  • Access to cessation services — Grade F

Lori Buttars, spokeswoman for the Weber-Morgan Health Department, said the agency effectively uses funds it receives from the federal tobacco control program.

“We use it for youth outreach in the schools and for compliance checks to prevent sales to underage buyers,” she said Thursday. “We know both of those things work, especially those compliance checks.

Tobacco is the contributor to many of the leading causes of death, including heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic lung disease, both in the nation and locally, Buttars said.

The Utah Department of Health did not return phone calls for comment about the report.

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