Tennessee Must Stand Up to Big Tobacco

During American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout®, Cancer Patients, Survivors, and Advocates Urge Lawmakers to Pass Tobacco Control Measures to Protect Public Health

November 10, 2023

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – Elected officials across the state must do more to support residents of Tennessee who want to quit using tobacco products, according to cancer patients, survivors and advocates who are marking the American Cancer Society’s 48th annual Great American Smokeout® on November 16, a day for people who use tobacco to create a plan to quit.

In Tennessee, tobacco use is still the leading preventable cause of disease and death, and smoking is now linked to at least 12 types of cancers, including lung, liver and colorectal cancers. Each year, more than 11,000 people die from a smoking-related disease each year in Tennessee alone. Although these hazards are well established, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show 20% of adults in Tennessee smoke. These products are often highly addictive, and it can be difficult for people to quit using tobacco once they have started.

“The Great American Smokeout is not just an opportunity for people who use tobacco to set a plan to quit. It’s also a clear wake up call for lawmakers to say it’s time for Tennessee to stand up to Big Tobacco,” said Maddie Bushnell, Tennessee Government Relations Director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society. “For too long, Tennessee has allowed the tobacco industry to addict people to deadly, cancer-causing products. It’s time to say, ‘enough is enough.’ Our residents deserve better.”

“Nearly 70% of adults who smoke want to quit, but quitting is incredibly difficult. We know that a well-funded tobacco cessation and prevention program is so important to provide the support needed to help people quit, and to help prevent kids and young adults from starting to use tobacco.”

Research shows that strong tobacco control policies, like our work at the local level to support enacting smoke-free laws and to encourage the state to increase tobacco prevention and cessation funding, can help people quit smoking. These policies also prevent new generations from starting tobacco usage.

Tobacco use is one of the primary drivers of cancer-related health disparities. Tobacco companies targeting communities of color, limited income communities, veterans, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ people and youth has caused disproportionate tobacco use among these populations. Achieving health equity relies heavily on eliminating tobacco use.

In 2021, the prevalence of any tobacco product use was higher among adults living in rural areas (26.2%) compared to adults living in urban areas (17.5%).

Eighty-five percent of Black adults who smoke use menthol cigarettes. Menthol has been proven to make it easier to start smoking and harder to quit. Black Americans still have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial group in the U.S. for most cancers, and Black men have the highest cancer incidence rate.

“On this Great American Smokeout, we urge Tennessee lawmakers to support people who want to quit using tobacco by moving quickly to increase tobacco prevention and cessation funding,” Bushnell said. “Passing this policy will help every resident of our state by reducing tobacco use and addiction, leading to fewer deaths and suffering from tobacco-related diseases like cancer.”

Free resources on quitting tobacco can be found at the Tennessee Tobacco QuitLine, 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669), or through the American Cancer Society’s cessation program, Empowered to Quit.






The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) makes cancer a top priority for policymakers at every level of government. ACS CAN empowers volunteers across the country to make their voices heard to influence evidence-based public policy change that improves the lives of people with cancer and their families. We believe everyone should have a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer. Since 2001, as the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN has successfully advocated for billions of dollars in cancer research funding, expanded access to quality affordable health care, and advanced proven tobacco control measures. We’re more determined than ever to stand together with our volunteers to end cancer as we know it, for everyone. Join the fight by visiting

More Press Releases AboutTobacco Regulation and Products, Tennessee

Media Contacts

Stacy Jacobson
Senior Regional Media Advocacy Manager