Policy Brief on Tobacco Use

Tobacco use is a leading cause of multiple preventable health ramifications, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2020), over 16 million Americans grapple with smoking-related conditions that result in disabilities, prolonged hospitalization, compromised quality of life, and overburdened healthcare systems. While tobacco is a profound health concern, this policy brief elaborates on the vulnerable populations and the scope of effect of smoking and provides suggestions for addressing the tobacco problem.

Problem Statement

Tobacco use is a habit that exposes users to multiple health concerns, including a high prevalence of chronic diseases, increased economic burden, compromised quality of life, and dependency. The American Public Health Association (APHA, n.d) perceives tobacco as a preventable killer due to its contributions to chronic conditions such as cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and stroke. Further, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2020) argues that more than 480000 Americans die every year due to tobacco-related diseases, rendering it one of the country’s leading causes of preventable deaths.

In the US, tobacco use is a national concern whose effects cut across various sections of the susceptible populations. Marbin et al. (2021) argue that 14% of US adults use tobacco products, including cigarettes, pipes, cigars, and e-cigarettes. Since many adult users are parents or guardians, this consideration disproportionately exposes children to tobacco use. For instance, statistics by CDC (2022) indicate that 4.0% of middle school students used any tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, and pipes, in 2021. Such a consideration exacerbates the situation by exposing adolescents to increased risks of nicotine addiction and the future prevalence of the chronic disease.

Although adults and youths are susceptible to tobacco use, its prevalence and effects are disproportionate to populations with various social determinants of health. According to Marbin et al. (2021), vulnerable populations to tobacco use effects are Black Americans, immigrants and refugees, incarcerated people, LGBTQ people, people with mental health conditions, and individuals of low socioeconomic status. In this sense, these populations grapple with multiple problems, including poverty, inability to make rational decisions, neighborhood issues, low-level education and unawareness, and stressful conditions that compel them to use tobacco. Some stressful situations associated with a high prevalence of tobacco use include inferior access to health insurance, absence of social support systems, and low annual household income. As a result, it is essential to focus on interventions that address disparities and inequalities in tobacco use to ensure positive homogeneous outcomes.

Suggestions for Addressing Tobacco Use

Undeniably, initiating policy change is a profound strategy for reducing the prevalence and effects of tobacco use in the United States. One of the policy changes that can translate to positive outcomes and compel users to quit smoking is to control the accessibility of tobacco products for youths and adults. It is possible to implement this policy by imposing taxes on tobacco products to reduce the users’ purchasing ability. Other policy-level measures for preventing tobacco use include implementing smoke-free laws in public places to curtail exposure to secondhand smoke, regulating who can purchase tobacco products, and restricting advertising (Ranabhat et al., 2019). Although these policy-level interventions can prevent tobacco use among adults and youths, it is essential to focus on strategies for addressing contributing and causative factors for tobacco use.

The risk factors for tobacco use include having family members or peers who smoke, lower socioeconomic status, mental health conditions, exposure to environmental cues that facilitate smoking, and stressful conditions. As a result, it is essential to embrace contingency activities and multi-actor policies for addressing disparities and intercepting risk factors for smoking. For example, educating youths, availing affordable insurance covers, implementing smoking cessation programs, and providing opportunities for stress management and behavioral therapies can prove effective in preventing tobacco use (National Institute on Drug Use, 2020). While initiating a policy change, it is vital to consider need identification, collect necessary information, draft the policy, consult appropriate stakeholders, and involve policymakers to finalize and approve the policy.

Necessary Stakeholders and the Impact of Tobacco on the Healthcare Delivery System

Tobacco use results in various health concerns, including a high prevalence of chronic diseases, addiction, dependency, premature mortalities, and increased care costs. These factors overburden the health delivery system due to the overriding need to eliminate disproportionalities and tobacco use disparities. For instance, the country massively prevents, treats, and manages tobacco-related diseases like cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), cancer, and COPD. Therefore, prevalent tobacco use compels the government to alter priorities and focus on averting the consequences of tobacco products.

Multi-actor collaboration is a profound aspect that facilitates policy enactment and the implementation of preventive initiatives. Local and national health organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institute on Drug Use, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) play a significant role in developing and implementing evidence-based prevention and treatment interventions for tobacco use. It is crucial to consider funding considerations for change initiatives to ensure sustainability when implementing preventive measures.

Conclusion

Tobacco use is a profound health concern because it leads to premature mortalities, morbidities, disability, and increased care costs. Adults and youths are susceptible to the habit due to the interplay between exposure risks such as socio-economic status, peer pressure, and stress. As a result, implementing evidence-based preventive measures that address risk factors for tobacco use can translate to positive outcomes. It is essential to revamp the current policies and improve them to account for disparities and inequalities among vulnerable groups. It is crucial to consider data-driven alternatives when changing policies, involve relevant stakeholders and understand factors affecting susceptible populations.

References

American Public Health Association. (n.d.). Tobacco. Apha.org. Retrieved April 7, 2022, from https://www.apha.org/topics-and-issues/tobacco

CDC. (2020, April 28). Health effects of smoking and tobacco use. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/health_effects/index.htm#

CDC. (2022, March 10). Youth and tobacco use. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/youth_data/tobacco_use/index.htm#

Marbin, J., Balk, S. J., Gribben, V., & Groner, J. (2020). Health disparities in tobacco use and exposure: A structural competency approach. Pediatrics147(1), e2020040253. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2020-040253

National Institute on Drug Use. (2020). Research report: Tobacco, nicotine, and e-cigarettes research report (pp. 1–56). https://nida.nih.gov/download/1344/tobacco-nicotine-e-cigarettes-research-report.pdf?v=4b566e8f4994f24caa650ee93b59ec41

Ranabhat, C. L., Kim, C.-B., Park, M. B., & Jakovljevic, M. (Michael). (2019). Situation, impacts, and future challenges of tobacco control policies for youth: An explorative systematic policy review. Frontiers in Pharmacology10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2019.00981

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