Aug. 29 2001
Washington, DC — Survey results released in Minnesota today show that, just one year after the initiation of the state's tobacco prevention program, the number of teens, age 12-17, who report having used tobacco in the past 21 days declined by 25 percent compared to a survey conducted before the beginning of the program. Tobacco use by Minnesota 12-13 year-olds dropped by an amazing two-thirds.
The Minnesota results add to the growing body of evidence that comprehensive state tobacco prevention programs reduce youth tobacco use. The failure of a large majority of states to use their tobacco settlement money to adequately fund and implement such programs is inexcusable in light of the powerful evidence that these programs work to reduce smoking, save money and save lives.
The survey results demonstrate a reversal of teen smoking trends in Minnesota that had risen by 36 percent over the previous six years. Minnesota's program, which is funded with the state's tobacco settlement funds, includes the innovative, youth-led Target Market campaign, which has run aggressive advertising describing tobacco industry manipulation of teens and showing teens fighting back. Today's results also show that the campaign is having the desired impact on teens' attitudes toward tobacco use.
Unfortunately, Minnesota is one of only five states – the others are Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts and Mississippi – that are funding tobacco prevention programs at the minimum levels recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (approximately 25 percent of their tobacco settlement funds). A recent report by the National Conference of State Legislatures found that states have devoted less than five percent of their settlement funds to tobacco prevention. Minnesota's results show once again that too many states are failing to seize the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity provided by the settlement to address the leading preventable cause of death in our nation today.
Other states with comprehensive prevention programs also have reported impressive results. California, Massachusetts and Arizona have reduced tobacco use far beyond national declines, and Florida cut smoking rates by 40 percent among middle school students and by 18 percent among high school students in just two years. Recent studies show that California's pioneering prevention program is not only reducing tobacco consumption, but also saving lives by reducing rates of heart disease and lung and bronchial cancer. We call on state legislatures to follow the lead of Minnesota and these other states and use their tobacco settlement proceeds to fund comprehensive tobacco prevention programs in accordance with the CDC's recommendations.