Declines in Cigarette Sales Show Tobacco Prevention Measures Work And Should Be Implemented in Every State

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

Mar. 8 2006

Washington, DC — Official U.S. government data released today by the National Association of Attorneys General and the American Legacy Foundation show that there has been a significant decline in cigarette sales in the United States since 1998, when the states settled their lawsuits against the tobacco companies. These data add to the already substantial evidence that tobacco prevention and control measures implemented because of and since the 1998 tobacco settlement are working as predicted to significantly reduce smoking.

The progress in reducing tobacco use is the result of many factors, including:

  • Large cigarette price increases resulting from the settlement itself and subsequent state and local cigarette tax increases. Forty-three states and the District of Columbia have increased tobacco taxes 66 separate times since the settlement, increasing the average state cigarette tax from 39.9 cents per pack to 91.7 cents today. Some local governments have enacted significant increases as well, with New York City increasing its rate from 8 cents to $1.50 per pack in 2002 and Cook County, IL, increasing its rate from 18 cents to $2 over the past two years (the federal cigarette tax has also increased since the settlement from 24 to 39 cents a pack);
  • Marketing restrictions imposed by the settlement;
  • The Legacy Foundation’s national truth® youth smoking prevention campaign funded by the settlement;
  • State tobacco prevention and cessation programs funded with tobacco settlement and tobacco tax revenues;
  • A growing number of state and local laws that require smoke-free workplaces and public places. Twelve states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico have now enacted smoke-free laws that include restaurants and bars, and hundreds of cities and counties have also done so.

It is good news for our nation’s health that not only cigarette sales, but also smoking rates among both youth and adults, are declining. However, today’s news should not detract from the need for even more action to reduce tobacco use. Recent surveys have indicated that the decline in tobacco use among children has slowed dramatically. In addition, it is also clear that our nation would have reduced smoking even more if more states had kept the promises they made at the time of the settlement and used a significant portion of their settlement revenues to fund programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. Unfortunately, only four states (Maine, Colorado, Delaware and Mississippi) currently fund such programs at the minimum levels recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Total state spending on tobacco prevention this year – $551 million – amounts to barely a third of the CDC’s recommendation and only 2.6 percent of the $21.3 billion in annual tobacco revenue the states are collecting from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes.

The few states and localities that have properly implemented tobacco prevention strategies demonstrate that significantly greater gains could have been achieved nationally had every state implemented such measures. Maine, for example, has reduced smoking by 64 percent among middle school students and 59 percent among high school students. From 2002 to 2004, New York City reduced adult smoking rates by 15 percent, double the national decline. Maine and New York City have succeeded because they are among the few places that have implemented all three of the most effective policies to reduce smoking: well-funded prevention and cessation programs, tobacco tax increases and smoke-free workplace laws. While each of these measures is effective individually, they are most effective when implemented together as part of a comprehensive approach to reducing tobacco use.

Despite the progress we have made, our nation cannot become complacent. Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., claiming more than 400,000 lives and costing the nation more than $180 billion in health care bills and lost productivity every year. According to the latest government data, 21.7 percent of high school students still smoke, as do 20.9 percent of adults – about 45 million U.S. adults in all. And the tobacco companies are spending record amounts to market their deadly and addictive products. Despite the marketing restrictions in the 1998 settlement, the tobacco companies since have increased their cigarette marketing expenditures by 125 percent to $15.1 billion a year, or $41.5 million a day, according to the Federal Trade Commission (based on industry expenditures for 2003, the most recent released by the FTC). The bulk of industry marketing is now spent on price discounts that have their greatest impact on kids, the most price-sensitive customers. Tobacco companies also continue to advertise in magazines popular with youth, such as Rolling Stone and Sports Illustrated, and they continue to sell candy and fruit-flavored cigarettes that appeal to youth. In fact, the tobacco companies spend $28 to market tobacco products for every $1 the states spend on tobacco prevention programs. It is not too late for states to keep the promise of the tobacco settlement and close that chasm between tobacco marketing and tobacco prevention.

We know what works to reduce tobacco use. What we need is the political will to implement these proven solutions in every state.

 

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