Passage of state-wide comprehensive smoke-free laws and increases in cigarette taxes has stalled in recent years, threatening to undermine public health according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While 21 states and the District of Columbia enacted comprehensive smoke-free laws between 2000 and 2009, no state has passed a law prohibiting smoking at work, restaurants and bars since North Dakota did in 2012. Only five states have enacted comprehensive smoke-free laws since 2010, CDC reported.

The same pattern holds for tobacco taxes. While 46 states and the District of Columbia increased tobacco taxes during the first decade of the 21st century, increasing the national average tax to 92 cents per pack, only 14 states and the District of Columbia have raised their taxes since 2010, and the average statewide tax on cigarettes has only increased by 20 cents in that time.

In its report, Stuck in Neutral: Stalled Progress in Statewide Comprehensive Smoke-Free Laws and Cigarette Excise Taxes, CDC also noted stark regional disparities in tobacco control laws. In southern states, only Delaware, Maryland and the District of Columbia have comprehensive smoke-free laws, and the average tax on cigarettes is only 96 cents per pack, well below the national average of $1.54 per pack. 

“It is disappointing to see the pace of progress slow and illuminating to observe the nearly nonexistent progress in our southern states. Smoke-free laws and excise taxes hold so much life-saving promise and are proven tools for reducing youth and young adult tobacco use. We need to see state policymakers get busy on policies and put them to work in every corner of the country,” said David Dobbins, chief operating officer at Truth Initiative.

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