Feb. 23 2005
Washington, DC — A new study published in the March issue of the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) provides powerful evidence that the American Legacy Foundation’s national truth® youth smoking prevention campaign has contributed significantly to the historic declines in youth smoking achieved in recent years. This study shows that anti-tobacco advertising like the truth® campaign and similar state campaigns are a vital element in the overall effort to reduce tobacco use and its devastating consequences in the United States.
However, the progress we have made is at risk. Due to a loophole in the 1998 state tobacco settlement, the tobacco companies’ funding of the American Legacy Foundation’s public education campaign ceased after 2003. In addition, many states have cut funding for tobacco prevention programs in recent years. The new study shows again that we know what works to reduce tobacco use. What we need is the political will at both the national and state levels to continue funding the truth® campaign and state tobacco prevention programs that have helped produce historic declines in youth smoking.
Since peaking in the mid-1990s, youth smoking rates have declined to historically low levels, falling by 56 percent among eighth graders, 47 percent among tenth graders, and 31.5 percent among twelfth graders, according to the federal government’s annual Monitoring the Future Survey. The new AJPH study finds that these declines in youth smoking accelerated after the launch of the truth® campaign in 2000 and that there was a significant dose-response relationship between exposure to the truth® campaign’s anti-smoking advertising and declines in youth smoking between 2000 and 2002, the period of the study.
Other factors that have previously been identified as significant contributors to youth smoking declines include higher tobacco prices, smoke-free workplaces and public places, restrictions on tobacco marketing, and well-funded state tobacco prevention programs. The new AJPH study demonstrates that anti-tobacco advertising is a vital component of these state programs, which also include school and community-based education programs, help for smokers who want to quit, and strict enforcement of laws prohibiting tobacco sales to minors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that the most effective approach to reducing tobacco use is a comprehensive approach that includes high tobacco taxes, strong smoke-free polices and well-funded prevention and cessation programs. Together, these measures amount to a vaccine that works to inoculate kids against tobacco use and its deadly consequences. We have an obligation to provide this vaccine to every generation of children.
Despite this recent progress, the battle is far from won. Tobacco use remains the nation’s leading preventable cause of death, killing more than 400,000 people in the U.S. every year, and youth smoking rates are still much too high, with one in four high school students graduating as smokers. In addition, cigarette marketing expenditures have skyrocketed since the tobacco settlement, reaching a record $12.5 billion – $34.2 million a day – in 2002. Smoking rates could quickly rise again unless we sustain and accelerate tobacco prevention efforts.
Therefore, it is essential that funding for the truth® campaign be restored and that states restore and increase funding for their tobacco prevention programs, which have been cut by $210.8 million in the last three years. Despite collecting record amounts of tobacco revenue from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, only three states – Maine, Delaware and Mississippi – currently fund prevention programs at minimum levels recommended by the CDC, and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour is irresponsibly seeking to eliminate funding for his state’s highly successful program.
The evidence is clear that anti-smoking advertising campaigns and other tobacco prevention measures work to reduce smoking, save lives and save money by reducing health care costs. There is no excuse for the failure of elected officials to support them.