Mississippi's Tobacco Prevention Program is Delivering Historic Gains And Deserves Continued Full Funding

Statement of Matthew L. Myers President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Aug. 3 2005

Washington, DC — Today's announcement of historic declines in Mississippi youth smoking is the direct result of the work by the state's nationally recognized tobacco prevention program, run by the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi. It is proof positive that Mississippi's tobacco prevention program is reducing tobacco use among kids, saving lives and saving money by reducing smoking-caused health care costs. Mississippi has experienced dramatic declines in youth smoking because it is one of the few states that has consistently funded its tobacco prevention program at the levels recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In other states, we have seen progress come to a halt because tobacco prevention programs and policies were not sustained. It is critical that Mississippi continue to fully fund the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi to protect every generation of children from tobacco's deadly toll.

According to survey results released today from the 2004 Youth Tobacco Survey, Mississippi has reduced smoking by 48 percent among public middle school students (from 23 percent in 1999 to 12 percent in 2004) and by 32 percent among public high school students (from 32.5 percent in 1999 to 22.1 percent in 2004). Mississippi's youth smoking declines far outpace the nation as a whole: during the same period, middle school smoking declined by only 12 percent and high school smoking declined by only 21 percent, nationally.

The evidence is clear that tobacco prevention is one of the smartest and most fiscally responsible investments that Mississippi can make. Studies show that the best tobacco prevention programs, like Mississippi's, have saved as much as $3 in smoking-caused healthcare costs for every dollar spent. If the Partnership continues its current level of effort, the state will prevent nearly 33,000 kids alive today from starting to smoke, save 10,500 of them from premature, smoking-caused deaths, and save Mississippi $394 million in long-term, smoking related health care costs. If the Partnership is eliminated, smoking rates and smoking caused disease, death, and healthcare costs will soar.

Tobacco prevention is part of the solution to the skyrocketing health care costs, especially under Medicaid, that is placing such a burden on Mississippi's budget. Tobacco costs Mississippi $662 million a year in health care bills, including $243 million under Medicaid. The average Mississippi household pays $528 a year in taxes because of smoking-caused government expenditures. Businesses pay even more because of higher health insurance costs and lost productivity. The tobacco prevention program run by the Partnership for a healthy Mississippi is saving the state money and reducing the state's Medicaid bill.

Today's results show how much Mississippi's tobacco prevention efforts have achieved and serve as a reminder about why continued full funding for the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi is so critical. States that have cut funding for once successful tobacco prevention programs, including Florida, Massachusetts and Minnesota, have seen their progress stop and even reverse. Mississippi must not fall into that trap. Instead of eliminating funding for the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi, as Governor Haley Barbour has proposed, the state's leaders should increase the cigarette tax to raise additional revenue to fund Medicaid. The new data demonstrate that eliminating the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi's funding will increase the state's Medicaid costs making the state's budget problems even worse.

The dramatic declines in youth smoking show that the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi has developed the equivalent of a vaccine that protects kids from tobacco addiction and its deadly consequences. But like other vaccines, this vaccine must be administered to every generation of children. Otherwise, the tobacco epidemic will explode again in Mississippi, at great cost in health, lives and money. Now is the time for Mississippi to commit to protecting all its children by maintaining funding for its incredibly successful tobacco prevention program.

 

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