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News Brief

Jan. 25, 2024 |  By: Deborah Van Fleet - Public News Service

Report: NE receives failing grades for three of five tobacco-control measures

lit cigarette

By Deborah Van Fleet - Public News Service

Nebraska needs to do better when it comes to tobacco use prevention and cessation, according to a newly released report.

In the American Lung Association's 2024 State of Tobacco Control report, Nebraska received an "F" in three of the five areas rated. One is for tobacco prevention and cessation funding.

Michael Seilback, national assistant vice president for state public policy for the American Lung Association, said Nebraska is spending vastly less than what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends.

"The fact is that the state is taking in these dollars, and we're saying, reinvest just some of them," Seilback explained. "You can easily meet CDC best practices with tens of millions of dollars to spare."

The report showed Nebraska's tobacco-related revenue is nearly $98 million per year. However, for fiscal year 2024, state funding for tobacco control programs is less than $4 million.

On the bright side, the state received an "A" for smoke-free air.

Responding to the report, a spokesperson with the Public Information Office at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services pointed to the Nebraska Quitline. It has received more than 100,000 calls since 2000, with Quitline users six to 10 times more likely to still have quit after seven months than those who try to quit cold turkey. The Nebraska Quitline number is 1-800-784-8669, and 1-800-355-3569 for Spanish speakers. Web-based coaching and texting and free "quit medication starter kits" are also available.

The state also received an "F" for tobacco taxes. Seilback called the state's cigarette tax of 64 cents per pack extremely low and supports Gov. Jim Pillen's proposal to increase it by as much as $2 per pack. He added the American Lung Association always pushes for increased tobacco tax dollars to be used for prevention and control and helping people quit.

"To be clear, even if not one dollar was spent -- and we wouldn't encourage it -- on its own, just increasing the price has an impact on the amount of people that use it," Seilback pointed out. "Increasing that price would help prevent kids from starting."

Nebraska's third "F" is on flavored tobacco products, as a result of having no state laws or restrictions.

Seilback commended the state for participating in the multistate lawsuit against e-cigarette manufacturer, JUUL Labs, with the settlement money going to programs to curb addiction.