ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — According to the American Lung Association’s 21st-annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, released on Wednesday, New York State is in a position to solidify its leadership role on tobacco control policies. The state’s mixed grades remained the same for the second year in a row, with tobacco use rates in decline.

The “State of Tobacco Control” report evaluates state and federal policies on actions taken to eliminate tobacco use and recommends proven-effective tobacco control laws and policies to save lives. A spokesperson for the American Lung Association said this is critical, as tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in America and takes the lives of 28,170 New York residents each year.

“New York has been a leader on tobacco control policy for decades, and we are pleased to see both adult smoking rates and youth tobacco use rates on the decline,” said Trevor Summerfield, Director of Advocacy at the American Lung Association in New York. “This is important progress, however, there are still 1 in 4 high school students in New York State using tobacco products, putting their health at great risk. If the State can deliver on Governor Hochul’s vision to increase tobacco taxes and remove all flavored tobacco from shelves in the next session, we have a real chance to save lives.”

States and the District of Columbia are graded in the report, in five areas that have been proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use and save lives. In the 2023 report, New York received the grades listed below.

— Funding for state tobacco prevention programs: F

— Strength of smokefree workplace laws: A

— Level of state tobacco taxes: B

— Coverage and access to services to quit tobacco: C

— Ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products: D

This year’s report noted the need for New York policymakers to focus on ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. According to the 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey, more than 2.5 million high school and middle school students use e-cigarettes, and more than 85% of those kids use flavored e-cigarettes.

“Ending the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol, will not only help end youth vaping but will also help address the disproportionate impact of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars have on many communities, including Black Americans, LGBTQ+ Americans, and youth,” a spokesperson for the American Lung Association stated in a press release.

Additionally, the report recommended that the state increase tobacco taxes. “One of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use, among both low-income individuals and also for youth, is to significantly increase the tax on all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes,” the press release continued.

Multiple studies have shown that every 10% increase in the price of cigarettes reduces consumption by about 4% among adults and about 7% among youth. New York has not significantly increased its tobacco tax since 2010 and the Lung Association said it supports Governor Hochul’s proposal to increase the tax by $2.00 per pack.

The state’s lone failing grade remains in the category for funding the tobacco control program. Despite receiving $1.8 billion from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, New York only funds tobacco control efforts at 20.7% of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Lung Association said the funds should be used to support the health of our communities and to prevent tobacco use and help people quit, and not switch to e-cigarettes.

“These programs are also critical for helping to end tobacco-related health disparities and would greatly support the impact of higher tobacco taxes and the removal of flavored tobacco from the New York market by giving those wanting to quit tobacco additional resources and programs,” concluded the press release.