Boston Globe Distorts Success of MA Tobacco Prevention Program

Statement by William V. Corr, Executive Vice President Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Nov. 26 2002

Washington, D.C. — Contrary to the assertions in an article in today's Boston Globe, independent scientists and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agree that the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program (MTCP) has contributed significantly to the decline in tobacco use in Massachusetts over the last decade. The evidence is also clear that both the MTCP and recent tax hikes have each independently contributed to the dramatic declines in youth tobacco use and per capita consumption in Massachusetts.

The article in the Globe does not dispute that Massachusetts has seen a decline in tobacco use or that these reductions will save tens of thousands of Bay State residents a premature and painful death from tobacco-caused disease and will save the state and its taxpayers millions of dollars in tobacco-caused health care costs. Instead, it asserts that the CDC has concluded that the decline is due almost entirely to recent tobacco tax hikes. The article misrepresents the position of the CDC and the overwhelming evidence that the decline is due to a combination of the comprehensive program and tax hikes. While Massachusetts has increased its tobacco tax from 26 cents to $1.51 since the program began, 60% of that increase (75 cents) was enacted in July of this year and could not account for the historic declines in smoking that have been reported.

Everyday in America, tobacco companies spend $26 million marketing their products, and 2000 kids become regular smokers; one in three will die as a result. This is neither a small nor a simple problem to solve. A comprehensive approach is needed to address what amounts to a public health disaster.

The Globe story's narrow focus on the tobacco tax and the media campaign component of the MTCP also ignores the contributions of the other elements of the program, as well as how those elements work in synergy with the tobacco tax and other policies to reduce smoking and its attendant devastation on public health.

The CDC, the Surgeon General, and every other expert organization that has previously examined the Massachusetts program have all reached the same conclusion: the comprehensive approach adopted by Massachusetts, which includes both policy and program interventions have had a dramatic impact on reducing tobacco use. These approaches have also created an environment in Massachusetts that is successful in countering the $215 million each year that the tobacco companies spend to market and promote their deadly products in the state. While excise taxes are an integral part of this approach, their effect has been enhanced by the comprehensive tobacco prevention program adopted in Massachusetts that encourages smokers to quit through media and community-based efforts, provides cessation services to those smokers who are encouraged to quit, and helps to create smoke-free environments that enhance success among those who try to quit. It is no wonder, then, that Massachusetts has the third-lowest smoking rate in the country after California and Utah.

The state of Massachusetts now generates roughly $800 million annually in tobacco settlement payments and tobacco excise taxes. Given the success of the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program, it is absolutely critical that the legislature and the governor use less than five percent of these dollars to restore funding for the program to the $35 million minimum recommended by the CDC. We risk a decade of progress against the nation's leading killer if they decide otherwise.

 

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