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Progress But Concern Over Tobacco Use in Wisconsin

Federal regulators have now made moves to regulate e-cigarettes and other formerly non-regulated tobacco products, but the American Lung Association says more action is needed on the state and local level. (leszekglaznov/iStockPhoto.com)
Federal regulators have now made moves to regulate e-cigarettes and other formerly non-regulated tobacco products, but the American Lung Association says more action is needed on the state and local level. (leszekglaznov/iStockPhoto.com)
May 16, 2016

BROOKFIELD, Wis. – Smoking and tobacco use still are the top causes of preventable disease and death, and each year 6,700 Wisconsinites die from tobacco use, according to the American Lung Association in Wisconsin.

This is National Prevention Week, and today is Prevention of Tobacco Use Day.

Michelle Mercure, director of Tobacco Control and Lung Health for the American Lung Association in Wisconsin, says the theme this year for Prevention Week is "strong as one, stronger together."

She says with tobacco use, prevention is paramount.

"And so we want folks to recognize and understand that if they are smoking or using tobacco that there is help for them,” she states. “Prevention is key. If we can prevent our youth from even starting and experimenting, then we're going to be that much further ahead."

Mercure says the quickest, least invasive and least expensive way to treat disease is to prevent it from occurring, and that every dollar spent in tobacco prevention saves $3 in health care costs.

There are free resources to help people who want to quit using tobacco. The Wisconsin Tobacco Quitline is 1-800-QuitNow, and the American Lung Association Helpline is 1-800-LungUSA.

While there have been significant decreases in both cigarette smoking and youth smoking rates, the use of other tobacco products is dramatically on the rise. But Mercure says in perspective, there has been progress.

"Back in 1999, which is really when our Wisconsin tobacco efforts really began, we were at a smoking rate of about 39 percent for our high school youth, and now today we're at about 11 percent, so we have made a lot of progress,” she says. “But there's still a lot of concerns around tobacco use that we need to address."

The American Lung Association in Wisconsin says the recent Food and Drug Administration action to regulate e-cigarettes and other tobacco products is a good first step, but more action is needed on the state and local level.

Mercure is concerned about the future of young people who may experiment with something they think is not harmful to them, but much more research needs to be done.

"I think we will come to find that e-cigarettes, just like the traditional cigarettes, are full of health effects and concerning,” she states. “So, (I'm) really concerned about those youth who are starting, so we need to really make sure that we are addressing those prevention efforts with our youth."

The federal regulations still do not address the topic of flavorings in tobacco products, and flavors are what appeal to young people and get them on the road to lifetime tobacco use.


Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI