Oct. 9 2003
Washington, D.C. — A report released today by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) shows the states have gone from bad to worse in keeping their promise to use proceeds from the 1998 state tobacco settlement to fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs. This report shows that in Fiscal Year 2004 states have allocated only three percent of their tobacco settlement money for tobacco prevention, down from a high of 9.2 percent when NCSL issued its tobacco settlement report in 2000. With this report card, state legislators have given themselves a failing grade in addressing the nation's leading preventable cause of death. Unless they quickly reverse course and use more tobacco money for tobacco prevention, state officials will miss a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reduce tobacco use and its terrible toll in health, lives and money.
The states have no excuse for failing to adequately fund tobacco prevention. They have plenty of tobacco-generated revenue to do the job from tobacco taxes and the tobacco settlement, and the scientific evidence is conclusive that tobacco prevention programs work to reduce smoking, save lives and save money. It is even in the states' financial self-interest to invest in tobacco prevention because the best prevention programs have been shown to save three dollars in smoking-caused health care costs for every dollar spent. In short, states are letting down both their kids and taxpayers by failing to adequately fund tobacco prevention.
States this year will collect about $19.4 billion in revenue from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes. It would take just eight percent of these total revenues – about $1.6 billion a year – for every state in the country to fund a comprehensive tobacco prevention and cessation program at minimum amounts recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Unfortunately, according to research by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the states in FY2004 have allocated only $549 million for tobacco prevention. This is about a third of the CDC's minimum recommendation and less than three percent of states' total tobacco revenue. Even worse, the states have cut funding for tobacco prevention by about $201 million, or 27 percent, in the past two years. Some of the nation’s most successful tobacco prevention programs, including those in California, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Oregon, have seen their funding slashed or virtually eliminated.
The evidence is clear that tobacco prevention and cessation programs work. A groundbreaking study conducted by the CDC and other researchers, and published in the September 2003 Journal of Health Economics, found that if all the states had funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs at levels recommended by the CDC, cigarette sales would have declined at twice the rate they did between 1994 and 2000. States with such programs have reduced youth smoking by as much as 50 percent in just a few short years. Studies show California, which started the nation's oldest tobacco prevention program in 1990, has saved tens of thousands of lives by reducing smoking-caused heart disease, strokes, lung cancer, and birth complications. Studies also show that California and Massachusetts have saved up to three dollars in health care costs for every dollar spent on tobacco prevention.
We know how to reduce tobacco use and its terrible toll. What’s missing is the political will to do so.
(The NCSL report can be found at http://www.ncsl.org/programs/press/2003MSA.pdf.)