Updated: September 2022
Author: Tobacco Control Program
The smoking rate in Vermont increased during the pandemic response. Adult smoking prevalence in Vermont had significantly decreased from 18% in 2016 to 14% in 2020, which had been the lowest rate in the past decade. The increase in smoking is concerning for Vermonter's health and the costs to healthcare.
In the last 20 years in Vermont, there has been a gradual decline in smoking from a high of 24% in 1996. Historically, compared to national rates, Vermont shows a significantly higher smoking rate among racial/ethnic minorities; Vermonters who make less than $25,000 in annual income; and those who have less than a high school degree (Tobacco Use Among Adults and Youth in Vermont and United States). Vermont is one of the most rural states in the nation; research shows that tobacco use is higher among rural populations along with youth and pregnant women.
Vermont has a robust and long history in tobacco control and prevention and offers a comprehensive suite of cessation services through 802Quits (www.802quits.org).. In 1987 Vermont was the first state to implement a smoke-free workplace law, and in 1995 Vermont public schools became smoke-free. In 2001 Vermont established a comprehensive Tobacco Control Program and the Vermont Tobacco Evaluation and Review Board, both funded by the Master Settlement Agreement dollars. The State also began offering an evidence-based state Quitline that is accessible and staffed by trained counselors. The program also implemented counter marketing to raise awareness about the dangers of tobacco and resources to quit. The comprehensive approach of the program expanded to include collaboration with Medicaid and the Blueprint for Health, Quit Online and text services, and mass reach media to provide motivation to quit.
Vermont has made significant progress in passing policies that protect from hazardous secondhand smoke, reduce youth access and contribute to people quitting. For many years the Vermont Tobacco Evaluation and Review Board (VTERB) guided policymaking to strengthen protections for Vermonters from the morbidity and mortality caused by tobacco. VTERB was disbanded in 2019 and in its place is the Substance Misuse Prevention Council which operates as an advisory body to VDH. In 2012 VTERB worked on establishing price parity among cigarettes and other tobacco products which helps to prevent consumers switching to another harmful product when the price of cigarettes is increased, and updated to include tobacco substitutes now considered tobacco products and taxed at 92% wholesale price as of July 1, 2019. Other protective policies passed in the past several years include restricting smoking in cars when children under the age of 8 are present; restricting use of e-cigarettes where lit tobacco products are not allowed; requiring all tobacco products be safely stored behind the counter or in a locked case, and increasing the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21 in addition to restricting online purchase of vaping products to only those with a wholesale license.