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Report: Texas isn't doing enough to curb tobacco use in teens and adults

A picture of a person smoking an e-cigarette
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The American Lung Association graded states on factors including funding for prevention and rehabilitation programs and taxes on tobacco products.

In its annual State of Tobacco Control report, the American Lung Association found the rate of tobacco use among Texas high schoolers is about 19%. Among adults, the number is about 13%.

In its latest report on tobacco use, the American Lung Association gave Texas failing grades in all categories, including state funding for prevention programs, taxes on tobacco products and legislation that would prohibit smoking in public places.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend Texas spend about $264 million on prevention and control programs. Currently, the state spends close to $4 million, according to the American Lung Association.

"Now, I'll note no state does a great job at funding," said Charlie Gagen, director of advocacy at the American Lung Association, "but Texas can certainly do better as we're near the bottom and receive a failing grade on this measure."

The association also reports Texas receives nearly $1.9 billion a year from tobacco taxes and settlement payments.

Gagen stressed one major concern in the report's findings is the number of Texas minors obtaining tobacco products.

"Even among middle schoolers, nearly 2% are smoking," he said. "For high schoolers, that's 20%. That's why we need more programs to help prevent them from starting, more funds to hold retailers accountable, because they're the ones who have these products on their shelves...."

State lawmakers have recently advanced several bills relating to e-cigarettes, flavored tobacco products and indoor smoking. Senate Bill 248, which went into effect on Sept. 1, requires retailers who sell vaping products to get a permit from the state comptroller. It also imposes penalties for those who violate the law.

The American Lung Association also calls on Texas to institute a statewide policy on smoke-free air laws. Dallas and Fort Worth have passed local ordinances that ask smokers to step outside of bars, restaurants and workplaces to smoke. Still, Gagen says approximately 30% of Texans are exposed to deadly amounts of secondhand smoke.

"We've certainly seen how important lung health is and we know that tobacco use, that e-cigarette use damages your lungs," he said. "Texas needs to do more to protect every Texan's lung health so that during this pandemic or the next pandemic, our lungs are healthy and ready to to fight those viruses."

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Got a tip? Ana Perez at aperez@kera.org. You can follow Ana on Twitter @ana_b_pez

Ana Perez is a KERA News producer and the intern coordinator for the station.