May. 24 2012
WASHINGTON, DC — A report released today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms that states have spent a small and dwindling portion of their tobacco revenues on programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. From 1998 to 2010, the states collected a combined $243.8 billion in revenue from legal settlements with the tobacco industry and from cigarette taxes, but appropriated only $8.1 billion for tobacco prevention and cessation programs (counting both state funding and federal grants). Total funding for these programs amounted to just 3.3 percent of the states’ tobacco revenues and less than 28 percent of the CDC’s recommended amount. This is particularly tragic because, as the report also found, states that have made sustained investments in comprehensive tobacco control programs have seen cigarette sales drop about twice as much as in the United States overall.
The states' investment in fighting tobacco use has gotten even worse in the past several years, as shown by a report released in November by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other public health organizations. The states have slashed funding for tobacco prevention programs by 36 percent in the past four years. In the current budget year (Fiscal Year 2012), the states will collect $25.6 billion in tobacco revenue, but will spend less than two percent of it — $456.7 million — on tobacco prevention programs. Total state spending currently amounts to just 12 percent of what the CDC recommends.
The CDC report confirms that most states have broken the promises they made at the time of the 1998 tobacco settlement to invest a significant portion of their settlement funds in fighting tobacco use, especially among kids. The states' failure amounts to an enormous missed opportunity to accelerate progress against tobacco use in the United States. It's also no coincidence that smoking declines have slowed at the same time that states have slashed tobacco prevention funds.
For our nation to continue making progress against tobacco, states must increase funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs. It would take less than 15 percent of total state tobacco revenues to fully fund tobacco prevention programs in every state. As today's report makes clear, if the states funded tobacco prevention programs at CDC-recommended levels, they could achieve larger and faster reductions in smoking and associated death and disease.
There is no excuse for the states' failure to do more. They receive huge amounts of tobacco revenue each year that can and should be used to fight tobacco use, and they have compelling evidence that tobacco prevention and cessation programs not only reduce smoking and save lives, but also save money by reducing tobacco-related health care cost. A 2011 study found that in the first 10 years of its tobacco prevention program, Washington state saved $5 in tobacco-related hospitalization costs for every $1 spent on the program. A 2008 study put the return on investment from California’s program at nearly 50:1 because of health care savings. The states have been truly penny-wise and pound-foolish in failing to properly fund tobacco prevention programs.
Nearly 14 years after the 1998 tobacco settlement, tobacco use remains the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 Americans and costing nearly $100 billion in health care bills each year. Despite progress in reducing smoking, nearly 20 percent of U.S. adults and high school students still smoke. To accelerate progress and win the fight against tobacco, the states must increase funding for tobacco prevention programs that are proven to save lives and save money.