Dec. 6 2006
Washington, DC — With smoking rates at a standstill after nearly a decade of decline, the nation's progress in reducing smoking is at risk unless states significantly increase funding for programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, warns a report released today by a coalition of public health organizations.
The annual report, which assesses whether states are keeping their promise to use proceeds from the 1998 state tobacco settlement to fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs, finds that only three states - Maine, Delaware and Colorado - currently fund tobacco prevention programs at minimum levels recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Other findings include:
The report, “A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement Eight Years Later,” was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society and American Lung Association.
The report comes as the CDC's most recent surveys have found that the nation's progress in reducing smoking has stalled among both youth and adults.
According to the CDC, 23 percent of high school students in the United States smoked in 2005, up from 21.9 percent in 2003. This is a worrisome turnaround after high school smoking declined by 40 percent between 1997 and 2003 (the national youth smoking rate peaked at 36.4 percent in 1997). Among adults, 20.9 percent smoked in 2005, the same as in 2004. This is the first time the adult smoking rate has not declined since 1997, when 24.7 percent of adults smoked.
The CDC has attributed this stall to two key trends. States have cut tobacco prevention funding in recent years, from $749.7 million in fiscal 2002 to $538.2 million in fiscal 2005 before rebounding slightly to $597.5 in the current year, fiscal 2007. In contrast, tobacco marketing has more than doubled since the 1998 settlement to at least $15.4 billion a year, according to the most recent tobacco marketing reports of the Federal Trade Commission (because the FTC's most recent reports cover cigarette marketing for 2003 and smokeless tobacco marketing for 2001, total marketing is almost certainly much higher today).
“It is no coincidence that progress in reducing smoking has stalled at the same time that tobacco marketing has skyrocketed to record levels and states have cut funding for tobacco prevention programs,” said William V. Corr, Executive Director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “For the sake of our nation's health, we cannot become complacent about reducing tobacco use. We know that tobacco prevention programs work to reduce smoking, save lives and save money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs. What's needed is the political will to fund and implement these programs as aggressively as the tobacco companies continue to market their deadly and addictive products.”
“Far too many states continue to fall short when it comes to funding tobacco prevention and control programs proven to save money and lives,” said John R. Seffrin, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of the American Cancer Society. “If we are to fully tackle the scourge of tobacco, states must do their part and make the necessary investment in these vital programs. Failure to do so jeopardizes the progress our nation has made in this critical battle.”
"States have been sorely negligent in using money received in the multi-state tobacco settlement on programs that could save lives and prevent youngsters from picking up the deadly habit," says M. Cass Wheeler, CEO, American Heart Association. "The public assumes that the money is being used for tobacco prevention programs. Tobacco use kills more than 170,000 people each year from heart disease,
stroke and other cardiovascular diseases alone. But eight years later, many states have wasted an opportunity to implement prevention programs that have been proven effective to reduce smoking among youths and adults and health care costs."
"The lack of commitment by states in funding these programs has very real consequences that we are just beginning to realize," said John L. Kirkwood, President and CEO of the American Lung Association. "We know that tobacco prevention programs save lives and lower health care costs. A small investment by states today will reap benefits - both human and financial - down the road. Unfortunately, too few states are willing to make this commitment to reduce the devastating effects of smoking. Policymakers in Maine, Colorado and Delaware are to be commended for their wise investment decision."
The report cites conclusive evidence that tobacco prevention programs work, especially when they are part of a comprehensive approach to reducing tobacco use that also includes high tobacco taxes and a strong smoke-free workplace law.
Maine, which ranks first in funding tobacco prevention for the fifth year in a row, reduced smoking by 64 percent among middle school students and by 59 percent among high school students from 1997 to 2005. Studies show California's program, started in 1990, has helped save tens of thousands of lives by reducing smoking-caused heart disease, lung cancer and other diseases. 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. The demonstrated successes of tobacco prevention programs in Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Washington and other states provide further proof that these programs are working in every state in which they are being adequately funded.
The multi-state tobacco settlement, signed by 46 states and the major tobacco companies on November 23, 1998, requires the tobacco companies to make annual payments to the states in perpetuity as reimbursements for health care costs related to tobacco use. Four states - Mississippi, Texas, Florida and Minnesota - reached earlier, individual settlements. Payments under the settlements were estimated to total $246 billion over the first 25 years.
Tobacco use is the nation's leading preventable cause of death, killing more than 400,000 people and costing more than $96 billion in health care bills each year. Every day in the U.S., more than 1,000 kids become regular smokers, one-third of whom will die prematurely as a result.