WISCONSIN — Wisconsin earned an overall F grade for how it handles tobacco in the state, according to the American Lung Association’s 2024 State of Tobacco Report.
The grade is not new for the Badger State, having earned the same one since 2017.
“It is unacceptable that after decades of research and proven tobacco control efforts, tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the U.S. Tobacco use is responsible for 480,000 deaths each year, including 45,000 Black individuals,” said Harold Wimmer, president and CEO of the American Lung Association, in a press release.
At least 14.3% of adults in Wisconsin smoke and 4.5% of high schoolers smoke, according to the American Lung Association.
E-cigarette use among high schoolers is even more common; about 14.7% use e-cigarettes.
Close to 8,000 deaths are attributed to smoking per year in the Badger State, according to DHS data. It costs the state over $3 billion annually in health care expenses.
State funding toward preventing and fighting tobacco use is well below what the American Lung Association recommends for the state. That’s part of why the state earned an F grade in the tobacco prevention and cessation funding category. It earned a D for access to cessation services.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends Wisconsin spend $57.5 million on these programs. However, the state allocated only $5.315 million in its budget for prevention and cessation efforts. Attorney General Josh Kaul also directed $1.39 million of Juul settlement funds last year to go toward preventing e-cigarettes among youth and for tobacco use treatment.
Some other movement has been made to combat the negative effects of the substance
E-cigarette retailers were added into Wisconsin’s existing tobacco licensing structure through a law passed by the state legislature at the end of 2023. The American Lung Association said this would help keep some retailers accountable. Milwaukee also passed a zoning ordinance which prohibits tobacco retailers from opening within 1,000 feet of a school, park, playground, library or child care facility.
Despite these shifts, Wisconsin still remains one of the few states that hasn’t changed the legal age for purchasing tobacco. Federal law raised the legal age in 2019 from 18 to 21. Wisconsin’s law still allows those 18 and older to purchase it, which officials say has caused confusion.
Wisconsin also has no state law or regulation restricting flavored tobacco products, earning it an F grade in the association’s report.
Tobacco and vape sales among youth have only increased. In 2023, DHS said sales in 2023 increased to 13.6%, up from 11.9% in 2022. Wisconsin earned a D for tobacco taxes — which is $2.52 per pack of 20 — in the association report.
The area where Wisconsin excelled in the most was for smokefree air. The state got a B in this category, as smoking is prohibited in most areas. E-cigarettes, though, are not included in the state’s smoking restrictions.
California, the District of Columbia and Massachusetts were the best graded states in the report. Alabama and Georgia were rated the worst, with Fs in all five categories.