Washington earns failing grades from American Lung Association

The state has seen a huge increase in teens smoking.

Washington state earned failing grades from the American Lung Association. The report card issued on Wednesday also focuses on the skyrocketing rates of teens vaping.

According to the American Lung Association the number of high school students vaping increased 78% between 2017 and 2018. In 2018, about 1 in 5 high school students had used an e-cigarette.

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The report card singles out and grades five different categories:

Tobacco prevention and control funding: F

Tobacco taxes: C

Smoke-free air: A

Access to cessation services: F

Tobacco 21: F

The American Lung Association gave Washington an "F" because there is not a state funded program for tobacco prevention and control for youth.

"We know this is a population we need to be supporting. We know there is no safe level of nicotine exposure," said Season Oltmann, executive director of the American Lung Association of Washington. "While some e-cigarette manufacturers are advertising it as a safe alternative, there is no safe alternative for teen exposure."

She sees a direct link between lack of education programs and the startling increase in vaping by teens.

The state got a "C" for the rate cigarettes are taxed in Washington. Washington earned an "A" for the restrictions of where you're able to smoke. For the access to service to help you quit smoking, the state earned an "F." The state also got an "F" for failing to work to change the age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21.

Gay City, Seattle's LGBTQ Center,  is upset the state isn't funding tobacco education.

"We know, just in general, the use in LGBTQ youth is higher as well as adults, that it's higher than the general population and so it's definitely something we're concerned about," said Fred Swanson, the executive director of Gay City. He says the state started cutting tobacco prevention and control funding a decade ago. "The assumption when they put all these fees in place is they would use these funds to prevent tobacco use and that's just not what they're spending it on. It's going into the general fund and it's a real problem."