States Slash Funding for Tobacco Prevention Programs

Report finds drop comes despite receiving record amounts of money for such efforts

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WEDNESDAY, Dec. 9 (HealthDay News) -- States cut funding for tobacco prevention programs by more than 15 percent in the past year, even though they're receiving record amounts of money from tobacco taxes and from the 1998 state tobacco settlement, says a report released Wednesday.

"Fully funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs stop addiction before it starts, and improve the health of our nation's communities. States must do better at funding programs that help reduce tobacco use and protect the health of children, 3,500 of whom try their first cigarette every day," John R. Seffrin, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said in a news release.

"Despite their current budget challenges, the states lack excuses for failing to do more. They are collecting record amounts of tobacco money, more of which should be used to fight the tobacco problem," Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in the release. "And there is overwhelming evidence that tobacco prevention programs not only reduce smoking and save lives, they also save money by reducing tobacco-related health-care costs. Those states that make short-sighted decisions to cut tobacco prevention will pay a steep price in lives and dollars."

The American Heart Association, the American Lung Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation are the other groups involved in the release of the report, "A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 11 Years Later."

Among the findings:

  • In the past year, states have cut funding for tobacco prevention by $103.4 million (15.4 percent). Including cuts approved last week, New York made the largest cut -- $25.2 million (31 percent) -- even though the state has a successful program that's reduced smoking to well below the national rate. Colorado, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Washington are other states that have made large cuts to tobacco prevention programs.
  • In fiscal year 2010, states will collect $25.1 billion in revenue from the tobacco settlement and from tobacco taxes, but will spend just 2.3 percent ($567.5 million) of that on tobacco prevention and cessation programs. Many states are expected to hike tobacco taxes next year.
  • North Dakota is the only state that currently funds a tobacco prevention program at the level recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only nine states fund tobacco prevention at even half the CDC-recommended level, while 31 states and the District of Columbia provide less than one-quarter of the recommended funding.
  • For every dollar states spend to discourage tobacco use, tobacco companies spend $20 to market their products. In total, tobacco companies spend $12.8 billion a year on marketing, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Decreases in smoking have slowed and even stalled in the United States, according to recent surveys. For example, the adult smoking rate in 2008 was 20.6 percent, compared with 20.9 percent in 2004, the CDC reported in November. While smoking among high school students has declined from a high of 36.4 percent in 1997, 20 percent of high school students still smoke and the rate of decline has slowed in recent years.

Along with calling for states to significantly increase funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs, the new report calls on Congress to ensure that health-care reform legislation provides adequate funding for anti-tobacco programs and makes it mandatory for Medicaid and other health insurance programs to cover medications and counseling for people trying to quit smoking.

"The inadequate funding of tobacco prevention and cessation programs is a powerful example of misplaced priorities in our nation's health-care system," Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said in the news release. "We spend too much time on treating people after they get sick and too little on keeping them healthy in the first place. Investing more in proven tobacco prevention programs and policies, like smoke-free restaurants and workplaces, will help people lead healthier lives and reduce health-care costs."