Detroit Regional Chamber > Mackinac Policy Conference > Policy Solutions for the Economic and Health Burdens of Tobacco Addiction

Policy Solutions for the Economic and Health Burdens of Tobacco Addiction

May 29, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Annually, 45,000 Black lives are lost to tobacco, making it the leading cause of death among African Americans.
  • Implementing laws protects youth without any harmful effects on the economy.
  • Provide resources to teenagers over consequences and help ensure adults have resources not to use tobacco later in life.


The Startling Truth of Michigan and Black Tobacco Usage

Tobacco use costs Michigan over $5 billion in excess health care costs and more than $11 billion in lost productivity each year. This session, hosted by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, discussed policy changes needed to ensure a more vibrant future free from the health and economic burdens of tobacco addiction.

Radke informed audiences about the staggering statistics impacting Michiganders every year. “Michigan is trending in the wrong direction in terms of tobacco use with adults and kids,” Radke said. “Rates are 38% higher in Michigan than other areas in the country, coast-to-coast.”

However, it is important to focus on the negative impact the tobacco industry has made on Black communities – especially Black Michiganders.

“We lost 45,000 Black lives to tobacco each year,” Jones said. “It’s the number one killer of African Americans … we have lives at stake.”

Laws Are Not Economically Limiting

Because Michigan lacks tobacco retailer licensing, it poses a challenge to effectively enforce regulations aimed at reducing the sale of tobacco products to minors. Ensuring the passage of laws aimed at preventing minors’ access to tobacco products is a top priority for Shink, who is optimistic about what can be accomplished by helping Michigan pass these laws to regulate and reduce tobacco use.

“We know from the work of other states, such as Massachusetts, New York, and California, that these kinds of laws [do not] hurt the economy and that they reduce … vaping,” Shink says. As a resident of Washtenaw County, she adds, “Our public health department, for years, has been raising the alarm about tobacco usage among children, but [they are] powerless; our county commissioners are powerless to do anything about it because the state has pre-empted their ability to do so … Michigan is not taking care of it.”

You Can Make a Change

Despite the raised concerns surrounding tobacco usage among the Michigan population – especially with children, there are ways to become a part of the solution, like contacting elected officials and sharing correct information with loved ones and prominent community leaders.

“I think the best thing [anyone] can do is [getting] your friends, your family, elected officials [and] prominent people in the community to contact their elected officials [and the] governor and let us know that you want these changes to Michigan law because it really works,” Shink said.

“All the misinformation is out there,” Minou added. “It’s up to us to make sure … the voices of truth are being heard. If you are a person of color, you should be speaking up. If you are someone with kids, someone [whose] had negative experiences, we need your voices. Now is the time. We have to speak up. We can’t be silenced and let the tobacco industry continue to bully us.”

This session was hosted by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.