Sep. 6 2002
Washington, DC — A report released today by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) shows states have gone from bad to worse in keeping their promise to use tobacco settlement money to fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs. This report shows that states are spending only four percent of their FY 2003 settlement revenues on tobacco prevention, down from five percent each year from FY 2000 to FY 2002. In the aggregate, states are falling woefully short of the approximately 20 to 25 percent of the settlement money needed for states to meet the minimum spending recommendations set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for effective comprehensive tobacco prevention programs. Cutting funding for tobacco prevention represents both bad fiscal policy and bad public health policy in light of conclusive evidence that these programs work to reduce smoking among both kids and adults, save lives and save money in the few states that have implemented them. Even in these difficult budget times, tobacco prevention is one of the smartest and most fiscally responsible investments that states can make because treating tobacco-caused disease is an enormous drain on state coffers.
The report reinforces the July findings of the American Lung Association, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids that showed states have cut fiscal year 2003 funding for tobacco prevention by 13.3 percent even as total revenue generated by the settlement increased by over $1 billion. It is especially disheartening that some of the deepest cuts are occurring in states with the nation's oldest and most successful tobacco prevention programs. California has cut funding for its nationally recognized program by 45 percent, Arizona has cut prevention funding in half, and Massachusetts has cut funding by 79 percent. Cutting tobacco prevention hands the tobacco industry a victory at the expense of kids and taxpayers. States have an even greater obligation to fund tobacco prevention programs in light of the increased revenue 18 states are raising from cigarette tax increases approved this year.
The states' failure to act is inexcusable in light of the conclusive evidence that tobacco prevention works. The most successful tobacco prevention programs are saving up to $3 in tobacco-caused health care costs for every dollar spent on prevention. Florida cut smoking by 47 percent among high school students and 30 percent among middle school students between 1998 and 2001; Oregon cut smoking by 41 percent among eighth graders between 1996 and 2000; Maine has cut high school smoking by 36 percent from 1997 to 2001; and Mississippi cut public high school smoking by 25 percent from 1999 to 2001. Studies show that California, which started the nation's first tobacco prevention program in 1990, has saved tens of thousands of lives by reducing smoking-caused birth complications, heart disease, strokes and lung cancer.
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people every year. The annual cost of treating smoking-caused disease exceeds $75 billion. Every day, another 2,000 kids become regular, daily smokers, one-third of whom will die prematurely as a result. While we have made progress in recent years in reducing youth smoking, that progress could quickly be reversed unless the states themselves reverse course and increase funding for tobacco prevention.