Jan. 26 2005
Washington, DC — The states would prevent nearly two million kids alive today from becoming smokers and save more than 600,000 of them from premature, smoking-caused deaths if every state funded a tobacco prevention and cessation program at minimum levels recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to new research data released today by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. States would also save $23.4 billion in long-term, smoking-related health care costs as a result of these reductions in youth smoking.
This analysis is based on a new study published in the February 2005 issue of the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) that found “clear evidence” of a direct relationship between the amounts states spend on tobacco prevention programs and reductions in both the percentage of youth who smoke and how much they smoke.
The AJPH study concluded that if every state had spent the minimum amount recommended by the CDC for tobacco prevention, youth smoking rates nationally would have been between three and 14 percent lower during the study period, from 1991 to 2000. The study was conducted by researchers from Bridging the Gap, a policy research program based at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and the University of Michigan and supported by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
At the request of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, two of the UIC researchers, Frank J. Chaloupka and John A. Tauras, used the same economic model as in the study to estimate the number of kids who would be prevented from smoking and the number who would be saved from premature, smoking-caused deaths if every state funded a tobacco prevention program at the CDC’s minimum levels.
This model estimated that if every state funded a prevention program at CDC minimum levels, the number of kids alive today who start to smoke would be reduced by 1,952,550 and 624,650 fewer of them would die an early death from smoking. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids then calculated cost savings based on previous research that estimated smokers, on average, have $12,000 more in lifetime medical costs than non-smokers. This new analysis is the first to estimate the specific health benefits and health cost savings if every state funded tobacco prevention programs at CDC-recommended levels.
“This new research provides the most powerful evidence yet of how effective tobacco prevention programs are at keeping kids from smoking, saving lives and saving millions, even billions of dollars by reducing health care costs,” said William V. Corr, Executive Director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “In light of these findings, it is imperative that every state act quickly to fund tobacco prevention programs at the minimum level recommended by the CDC. Tobacco prevention is clearly one of the smartest and most fiscally responsible investments the states can make.”
“This research shows once again that we know what to do to reduce tobacco use; state leaders simply have to exercise the political will to do it,” Corr said. “States have the resources from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes to invest in tobacco prevention and cessation programs. Unfortunately, too many governors and state legislators are ignoring the compelling evidence that these programs work and failing to fund tobacco prevention at levels recommended by the CDC.”
Collectively, states during the current budget year have allocated $538 million for tobacco prevention, which amounts to only a third of the $1.6 billion minimum that the CDC recommends and less than three percent of the record $20 billion the states will collect in tobacco revenue from the 1998 state tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes. Only three states – Maine, Delaware and Mississippi – currently fund tobacco prevention programs at CDC minimum levels. Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia fund such programs at less than half the CDC minimum levels or provide no funding at all.
Despite overwhelming evidence that tobacco prevention programs work, states in the past three years have cut funding for these programs by 28 percent. Funding has been virtually eliminated for some of the most successful state programs, including in Florida and Massachusetts. Just last month, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour proposed eliminating funding for that state’s program, the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi, despite the state’s success in reducing smoking by 52 percent among public high school students and 28 percent among public middle school students between 1999 and 2003.
Other states with well-funded programs have reported similar successes. Maine, with the nation’s best-funded tobacco prevention program, reduced smoking by 48 percent among high school students and 59 percent among middle school students between 1997, when it launched its tobacco prevention program, and 2003. Studies show California’s pioneering program, started in 1990, has helped save tens of thousands of lives by reducing smoking-caused heart disease, lung cancer and other diseases. Studies show California and Massachusetts, before recent cuts in their programs, were saving as much as $3 in smoking-caused health costs for every dollar spent on tobacco prevention.
While tobacco prevention programs are being cut, the tobacco companies have increased their marketing expenditures to a record $12.7 billion a year, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s most recent reports on cigarette marketing. The tobacco companies spend more than 23 times as much to market cigarettes and other tobacco products as the states spend on tobacco prevention.
The CDC recommends that each state implement a comprehensive tobacco prevention and cessation program that includes public awareness media campaigns, school and community-based education programs, enforcement of laws regarding tobacco sales to minors, and programs to help smokers quit. The CDC funding recommendations for each state are based on several factors, including demographic data and rates of tobacco use.
The estimates of health benefits and health cost savings that were released today include only the benefits from reductions in youth smoking. States would realize significant additional health and financial benefits from reductions in adult smoking that would result from well-funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs. States would also achieve significant additional youth and adult smoking declines by implementing well-funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs in conjunction with other proven tobacco control measures, including tobacco tax increases and smoke-free workplace laws.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., killing more than 400,000 people and costing more than $75 billion in health care bills ever year. Nearly 90 percent of all smokers start at or before age 18. Although progress has been made in reducing youth smoking, about a quarter of high schools seniors still graduate as smokers, and 2,000 more kids become regular smokers each day, one-third of whom will die prematurely as a result.