Friday, December 14, 2012

States Quietly Defunding Anti-Smoking Programs For Kids

Only 2 cents of each tobacco settlement dollar goes to smoking prevention plans.

If there’s one thing we know about smoking, it’s that for every smoker who quits, we gain a net financial benefit. These health cost savings can be huge for states, which is why all of them have put in place smoking cessation plans and programs for their citizens. And they are able to run this programs because of the monies that come to them under the 1998 master tobacco settlement.

Perhaps it doesn’t come as a huge surprise, but it’s depressing, all the same: The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids estimates that states will spend less than 2 per cent of these court-mandated funds on actual programs to prevent kids from smoking. The report accuses the states of failing to reverse budget cuts to “programs that have set back the nation’s efforts to reduce tobacco use.”

The report was undertaken to access whether states have been using the estimated $246 billion over 25 years—plus cigarette taxes—to reduce tobacco use. What they found was that “states have failed to reverse deep budget cuts that reduced funding for tobacco prevention by 36 percent” from 2008 to 2012. Only North Dakota and Alaska are currently funding smoking cessation programs at the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Four states—New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Ohio—have allocated ZERO funds for tobacco prevention programs in FY 2013.

“Given such a strong return on investment,” the report concludes, “states are truly penny-wise and pound-foolish in shortchanging tobacco prevention and cessation programs.” The report declined to speculate on where the money actually goes, but noted that this was the “second lowest amount states have spent on tobacco prevention programs since 1999, when they first received tobacco settlement funds.”

The cries of outrage came thick and fast:

“The states have an obligation to use more of their billions in tobacco revenues to fight the tobacco problem. Their failure to do so makes no sense given the evidence that tobacco prevention programs save lives and save money by helping reduce health care costs."—Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

"States with comprehensive tobacco control programs experience faster declines in cigarette sales, smoking prevalence and lung cancer incidence and mortality than states that do not invest in these programs."—John R. Seffrin, CEO of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

"The paltry amount of money that states spend on tobacco prevention and cessation programs is extremely disappointing…. These programs work and it’s time for states to put more skin in the game."—Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association

"Too many states are failing their citizens by abandoning their responsibility to invest in proven programs that prevent people from smoking and help smokers quit…. Supporting these programs at recommended levels is not only the right thing to do, it's the smart thing to do — quitting smoking or never starting saves lives and saves money."—Paul G. Billings, senior vice president of Advocacy & Education at the American Lung Association

In 2007, the CDC concluded: “We know how to end the epidemic. Evidence-based, statewide tobacco control programs that are comprehensive, sustained, and accountable have been shown to reduce smoking rates, tobacco-related deaths, and diseases caused by smoking.”

Two cents on every dollar. About 20 percent of Americans smoke. “Tobacco companies spend more than $18 to market tobacco products for every one dollar the states spend to reduce tobacco use.” What’s wrong with this picture?

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