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Problem/Condition: State laws addressing tobacco use, the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, are summarized. Laws address smoke-free indoor air, minors’ access to tobacco products, advertising of tobacco products, and excise taxes on tobacco products.

Reporting Period Covered: Legislation effective through December 31, 1998. Description of System: CDC identified laws addressing tobacco control by using an on-line legal research database. CDC’s findings were verified with the National Cancer Institute’s State Cancer Legislative Database.

Results: Since a previous surveillance summary on state tobacco-control laws published in November 1995 (covering legislation effective through June 30, 1995), several states have enacted new restrictions or strengthened existing legislation that addresses smoke-free indoor air, minors’ access to tobacco, tobacco advertising, and tobacco taxes. Five states strengthened their smoke-free indoor air legislation. All states and Washington, D.C., continued to prohibit the sale and distribution of tobacco products to minors; however, 21 states expanded minors’ access laws by designating enforcement authorities, adding license suspension or revocation for sale to minors, or requiring signage. Since the 1995 report, eight additional states (a total of 19 states and Washington, D.C.) now ban vending machines from areas accessible to minors. Thirteen states restrict advertising of tobacco products, an increase of four states since the 1995 report. Although the number of states that tax cigarettes and smokeless tobacco did not change, 13 states increased excise taxes on cigarettes, and five states increased excise taxes on smokeless tobacco products. The average state excise tax on cigarettes is 38.9¢ per pack, an increase of 7.4¢ compared with the average tax in the 1995 report.

Interpretation: State laws addressing tobacco control vary in relation to restrictiveness, enforcement and penalties, preemptions, and exceptions.

Actions Taken: The data summarizing state tobacco-control laws are available through CDC’s State Tobacco Activities Tracking and Evaluation (STATE) System*; the laws are collected and updated every quarter. The STATE System also contains statespecific data on the prevalence of tobacco use, tobacco-related deaths, and the costs of tobacco use. Information from the STATE System is available for use by policy makers at the state and local levels to plan and implement initiatives to prevent and reduce tobacco use. In addition, CDC is using this information to assess the ongoing impact of tobacco-control programs and policies on tobacco use.


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Fishman, J.A., Allison, H., Knowles, S.B., Fishburn, B.A., Woollery, T.A., Marx, W.T., Shelton, D.M., Husten, C.G., and Eriksen, M.P. (1999). State laws on tobacco control – United States, 1998. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. CDC surveillance summaries / Centers for Disease Control, 48(3): 21-40.

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