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Alaska gets mixed grades in tobacco report

February 3, 2019

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Alaska received a generally positive review in a new report for its efforts to keep tobacco out of the hands of adolescents — with one exception.

The state earned a grade of D for its minimum age for purchasing tobacco, according to the 17th annual State of Tobacco Control report by the American Lung Association, the Juneau Empire reported .

The tobacco-buying age in Alaska is 19, with the exception of Sitka, which last year adopted 21 as the minimum age.

As a way to curb smoking in young people, the Lung Association recommends the minimum age of 21.

“That’s really the newest tool in the toolbox,” Marge Stoneking, executive director for the Lung Association’s Alaska office, said.

Nationally, the minimum tobacco-buying age of 21 has been adopted by only six states — Hawaii, California, Oregon, New Jersey, Maine and Massachusetts.

According to Stoneking, 95 percent of smokers try their first cigarette before the age of 21.

In other categories of the report, Alaska is heading in the right direction, Stoneking said.

The report gives Alaska an A for tobacco-prevention funding, a B for smoke-free workplace laws and a C for its tobacco taxes.

Stoneking said the B grade for smoke-free workplace laws reflect a clause allowing localities to opt out of a statewide ban on workplace smoking that was passed by lawmakers last year.

Still, the grade was a significant improvement from past reports.

“Up until this year we’ve gotten an F for smoke-free air,” Stoneking said. “This year, it’s a B. That’s a big deal.”

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Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com

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