Dec. 5 2001
Washington, DC — A new study published in the December 5, 2001, issue of the Medical Student Journal of the American Medical Association (MSJAMA) finds that the four states with the nation's oldest tobacco prevention programs have reduced adult smoking rates at more than three times the rate of other states. Based on these findings, the study concludes that if states use sufficient funds from the 1998 tobacco settlement to establish comprehensive tobacco prevention programs, the nation as a whole can reduce adult smoking rates, which stood at 22.7 percent in 1999, to 10 percent in 2010, exceeding a 15 percent goal set by the U.S. Public Health Service.
This study adds to the powerful and growing body of evidence that comprehensive tobacco prevention programs work to reduce smoking, save lives and reduce health care costs. At a time when many states are facing severe budget deficits, tobacco prevention is one of the smartest and most fiscally responsible investments states can make. Unfortunately, only five states are currently funding tobacco prevention programs at even the minimum amounts recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is inexcusable that the vast majority of states have failed to take advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity presented by the tobacco settlement to address what is the leading cause of preventable death in our nation. And it is tragic that elected officials in some states, including Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts and Ohio, are seeking to cut funding for tobacco prevention just as we are beginning to make progress.
The new study, conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, examined smoking prevalence and consumption in the first four states to create large tobacco control programs – California (created in 1989), Massachusetts (1992), Arizona (1994) and Oregon (1996). The study finds that, on average, these four programs yielded an average rate of decline in adult smoking prevalence of one percent a year over the duration of the programs, compared to a 0.3 percent decline in the rest of the nation.
The study also finds California's progress in reducing smoking rates stopped for a period in the mid-1990s after funding for tobacco prevention was cut. Funding has since been partially restored, as has progress in reducing tobacco use. Recent results from Florida, which started its program in 1998, also indicate that cuts to that once-model program are reducing its effectiveness. These experiences warn other states that tobacco prevention programs must be adequately funded and sustained over time in order to continue reducing smoking rates.
Today's study shows once again that we know how to reduce tobacco use and its attendant devastation on the nation's health and economy. We just need the political will to implement these proven solutions.