Florida gets 'F' in protecting residents from tobacco dangers
Florida is failing its citizens in reducing the harms of tobacco products, according to the American Lung Association's 22nd annualState of Tobacco report.
Overall, it’s Black Floridians who ultimately are among the most hurt by the use of flavored products, the ALA found. Researchshows that 81% of Black Americans smoke menthol cigarettes. On average, 45,000 Black Americans die each year due to tobacco-related illnesses.
For the fourth year in a row, the ALA gave Florida an “F” for its failure to create effective restrictions on flavored products.
About 13% of all Floridians smoke tobacco products, according to the Florida Department of Health. Its most recent county data from 2019 shows 25% of Orange County’s Black male residents use tobacco products — the most of any demographic.
Additionally, the ALA has accused tobacco companies of targeting teens with flavored products such as e-cigarettes that are often sold with fruity flavors. Tobacco companies have said their intended customers are adults, but in 2023, 13% of Florida's high school students reported current e-cigarette use compared to 9% of Florida adults in 2022, according to the Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida.
The state also received failing grades for not meeting recommendations in tobacco prevention and cessation of funding as well as taxing tobacco.
Part of the problem is that Florida isone of 12 stateswhose courts or laws prevent local ordinances from restricting tobacco, said Ashley Lyerly, the director of advocacy for the ALA’s southeast region.
“Communities have been able to pass local policies as it relates to smoke-free beaches and parks, and a lot of communities have taken that upon themselves to do that. So we know that there is this sort of burning desire,” Lyerly said.
Ultimately what the ALA hopes to see from Florida leaders during the legislative session is an effort to restore local government control of the marketing and sale of tobacco products as well as instituting strong regulation and licensing of all tobacco retailers.
“And then strongly recommending that Florida invest and provide coverage for quit tobacco coverage, with no barriers for Medicaid recipients. So people have easy access to quit when they choose to do so,” she said.
Florida received a “C” letter grade for establishing smoking conditions but had previously maintained a “B” from 2017 to 2023.