Virginia Youth Smoking Declines Show Tobacco Prevention Works But Funding Must Be Sustained and Expanded to Help Smokers Quit

Statement of William V. Corr, Executive Director Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Jun. 1 2004

Washington, DC — New data released today by the Virginia Tobacco Settlement Foundation (VTSF) demonstrate yet again that comprehensive tobacco prevention programs work to reduce youth smoking when funded and implemented according to science-based guidelines. Between 2001 and 2003, and coinciding with the launch of the Foundation’s comprehensive youth tobacco prevention program, smoking declined by 28 percent (from 29 percent to 21 percent) among Virginia high school students and by 45 percent (11 percent to 6 percent) among middle school students. The program, modeled on Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) guidelines for tobacco prevention, includes an innovative statewide media campaign, school and community programs to reach youth, and enforcement efforts to prevent illegal sales of tobacco to kids. These impressive results add to the overwhelming evidence that tobacco prevention works, even in the heart of tobacco country.

The declines in youth smoking signal the beginning of a healthier future for Virginia’s children, but it is critical that funding for the program be sustained to continue to protect Virginia’s kids and that additional funds be allocated to fund a fully comprehensive program in Virginia that also includes help for smokers who want to quit. The youth smoking declines bode well for the future, but Virginia will realize the most immediate health benefits and health cost savings by helping adult smokers quit. In addition, when fewer adults smoke, children are much less likely to take up the habit.

Despite the success of its program, the budget for the VTSF will decline from $18.4 million in FY2004 to roughly $13 million in FY 2005. The CDC recommends that Virginia spend a minimum of $33.3 million annually on a fully comprehensive tobacco prevention and cessation program. With substantial new revenue from a 17.5 cent increase in the state’s cigarette tax, effective August 1st of this year, , Virginia will generate roughly $225 million in revenue in FY2005 from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes (the cigarette tax will generate even more revenue when it goes up another 10 cents in 2005). The data released today should help convince Governor Warner and the Legislature that tobacco prevention and cessation is a wise investment that works to reduce smoking, save lives, and save money by reducing health care dollars in the state. By fully funding a comprehensive tobacco prevention and cessation program with just a small portion of its tobacco revenue, Virginia can continue and enhance its progress in reducing tobacco use.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in Virginia, killing more than 9,000 of the state’s residents every year. In addition, it result in $1.5 billion in tobacco-related health care costs annually, much of which is borne by taxpayers.

 

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