American Lung Association report reveals Wisconsin isn't doing enough to try and reduce the burden of tobacco

Lung Cancer survivor urges Wisconsinites to stop smoking tobacco.
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Posted at 4:42 PM, Jan 24, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-24 17:42:27-05

WATERFORD — The American Lung Association (ALA) released its "State of Tobaco Control" report on Wednesday and the State of Wisconsin received multiple failing grades.

In the 2024 report, Wisconsin received the following grades:

  • Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
  • Strength of Smoke-free Workplace Laws – Grade B
  • Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade D
  • Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade D
  • Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products – Grade F

The report has inspired lung cancer survivor Andrew Handeland to share a message urging smokers to quit.
"I believe God saved my life," said Handeland. He is now the health and safety officer at Waterford Fire Department.

"To almost have 5 years of recovery and to be as healthy as I am with one lung shows me I have a story to tell. I can use it to help as many people as I can."

Handeland was diagnosed with Stage 3 lung cancer in 2019. He said his chance of survival was near 3%.

"They traced it back to my times in the Marine corps overseas in Afghanistan and Iraq with the burn pits," he said.

While his cancer wasn't from smoking tobacco, the CDC says up to 90% of lung cancer deaths can be linked to cigarette smoking.

That's why now, as the ALA releases this report, he has a message for voters:

"You can get a fake leg, fake arm. But, its hard to get a lung replacement. It can be done, but it's hard," said Handeland.

He survived his cancer but is now left with just one lung.

"Somedays I can actually feel it internally. Its a weird feeling. Like my blood isn't getting enough oxygen," he said while describing living with one lung as a "struggle."

According to the ALA, 7,850 Wisconsin residents die because of tobacco use every year.

In the new report released Wednesday, Wisconsin received a failing grade for state tobacco prevention programs and in efforts to end the sale of all flavored tobacco products.

Grades that leave survivors like Handeland "disappointed." Especially because he said flavored tobacco products are often heavily marketed to children.

"When you're young you don't care about what's going to happen to me when I'm older. What are the consequences of my actions? But, there are always consequences for stuff like that and all that stuff you're breathing in," he said.

It's a strong message from a survivor of lung cancer, as the ALA urges the White House to take action and stop the sales of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars: quit smoking now.