Apr. 28 2003
Washington, D.C. — Indiana's Legislature has turned its back on kids and taxpayers by voting to cut funding for the state's tobacco prevention program by nearly two-thirds, to $10.8 million, from $32.5 million in FY2003. If put into effect, these cuts will result in more kids smoking, more tobacco-caused disease, and higher health care costs. Despite difficult budget times, it is penny-wise and pound-foolish to cut funding for tobacco prevention when so much evidence exists that it saves both lives and money. States with effective prevention programs have achieved significant reductions in smoking among both kids and adults, while saving up to $3 for every $1 spent on tobacco prevention. Indiana's leaders should rethink this course and restore funding for the state's tobacco prevention program.
A report we and other leading public health organizations released in January praised Indiana as a national leader for increasing its cigarette tax and committing to funding tobacco prevention. Just last week, Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation released figures showing more than 193,000 adult Hoosiers have quit smoking in the last year, and overall cigarette consumption is down 18 percent. The Legislature's new budget proposal undoes this progress.
The Legislature's budget would bring Indiana's innovative tobacco prevention program to a screeching halt just as it is delivering services and benefits throughout Indiana. The program is helping to prevent kids from starting to smoke and helping adults to quit through media messages and community and school programs in every Indiana county. If Indiana stays the course, the experience of other states with comprehensive tobacco prevention programs tell us it will dramatically reduce smoking among both kids and adults, save lives and save money for taxpayers.
Despite facing a budget deficit, Indiana is actually collecting more tobacco-generated revenue than ever before because the state increased its cigarette tax by 40 cents last year. Indiana receives $441 million a year in revenue generated by tobacco, including $145 million in tobacco settlement money and $296 million in tobacco taxes. Just 7.4 percent of this tobacco money is needed to fund a comprehensive tobacco prevention program at $34.8 million, the level recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Surely Indiana can maintain this commitment to protecting its kids from tobacco addiction and the death and disease that often follow.
It is worth noting that just a 4-cent increase in the state's cigarette tax would bring in $26 million in new revenues, enough to restore funding for tobacco prevention at the CDC recommended level. Indiana's 55.5-cent rate tax is also substantially lower than the national average of 67 cents. Cigarette taxes are proven to be a win-win-win for states, they always increase revenues while reducing tobacco-related disease and health costs, and they are politically popular with voters.
Tobacco's toll is devastating in Indiana – 31.6 percent of high school students currently smoke, and 20,500 more kids become regular, daily smokers every year, one-third of whom will die prematurely. Smoking-caused health care costs Indiana and its taxpayers $1.6 billion a year.