New Report Shows Massachusetts Is Falling Behind in Protecting Kids from Tobacco

Health Advocates Urge Legislature to Restore Tobacco Prevention Funding

Apr. 7 2007

Boston, MA — Massachusetts' progress in reducing smoking has stopped and may even have started to reverse, and the Commonwealth – once recognized as a national leader in fighting tobacco use – has fallen behind the nation as a whole in reducing cigarette sales, according to a new report released today by the Tobacco Free Mass Coalition and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

The report finds that per capita cigarette sales in Massachusetts increased by more than three percent from 2005 to 2006, while cigarette sales nationally declined by more than three percent over the same period. It also finds that the smoking rate for Massachusetts high school students remained virtually the same from 2003 to 2005 after declining by 41 percent from 1995 to 2003, a period when Massachusetts had one of the nation's best-funded tobacco prevention programs. Funding for the program was cut by 95 percent from 2000 to 2004 before increasing slightly this year.

The report was released on the same day the Massachusetts House is releasing its 2008 budget. Health advocates are urging state leaders to restore funding for the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program. Governor Deval Patrick has proposed increasing the program's funding from $8.3 million this year to $16 million, which is slightly less than half the minimum amount of $35.2 million recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Health advocates praised the Governor's proposal and urged the Legislature to build on it.

"This report sounds a clear warning about what happens when states cut funding for tobacco prevention programs – progress reverses, more kids become addicted to tobacco, more lives are lost and taxpayers pay more to treat tobacco-caused disease," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "Governor Patrick's proposal is an important step toward making Massachusetts a national leader again in fighting tobacco use. Now it's the Legislature's turn to support and build on the Governor's proposal in order to protect Massachusetts' kids and reduce tobacco's devastating toll."

"We have an opportunity to restore funding to a program that was once nationally recognized for reducing smoking and fighting the number one preventable cause of disease and death in the Commonwealth – tobacco," said State Representative Rachel Kaprielian. "It's more important than ever we step up our efforts to protect kids because the tobacco companies are spending record amounts to market their deadly and addictive products. Legislatures everywhere need to begin to reverse this cycle of addiction by increasing funding for prevention and cessation."

"When our state's tobacco prevention and cessation program was fully funded, our youth smoking rate was among the lowest in the nation," said Dr. Gena Carter, Chair of the Tobacco-Free Mass Coalition. "Since funding was cut five years ago, we've seen a dramatic upward trend in illegal sales to kids, and the progress we made around youth smoking rates has stopped. We applaud Governor Patrick for recognizing the need to restore funding for tobacco prevention, and we urge the Legislature to follow suit and build on the Governor's proposal."

Massachusetts launched the Tobacco Control Program with funds from a cigarette tax increase approved by voters in 1992. Despite the program's considerable success in reducing tobacco use and recognition as a national model, funding was cut from $54.3 million in Fiscal Year 2000 to $2.5 million in Fiscal Year 2004, a cut of 95 percent over four years, before the slight increase to $8.3 million in Fiscal 2007.

The report highlights several trends that indicate Massachusetts' progress in reducing smoking has stopped or reversed since funding was cut for the Tobacco Control Program:

  • Between 1992 and 2003, per capital cigarette consumption declined almost twice as much in Massachusetts as in the country as a whole (47 percent vs. 28 percent). This trend changed dramatically after the Tobacco Control Program was cut. From 2003 to 2006, per capita cigarette consumption declined by seven percent in Massachusetts, compared to a 10 percent decline nationally. As noted, from 2005 to 2006, per capita cigarette sales in Massachusetts increased by 3.2 percent compared to a 3.5 percent decline nationally. This data is from the 2006 Tax Burden on Tobacco, an authoritative report on cigarette sales.
  • The smoking rate among Massachusetts' high school students declined from 35.7 percent in 1995 to 20.9 percent in 2003, a decline of 41.5 percent, according to the CDC's Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance survey. But the high school smoking rate was virtually unchanged between 2003 and 2005, declining slightly to 20.5 percent.
  • Data from the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards showed that between 2002 and 2003, illegal cigarette sales to minors increased by 74 percent in Massachusetts communities that lost a significant amount of their enforcement funding due to Tobacco Control Program cuts. Over the same time period, cigarette sales to minors increased by 98 percent in communities that lost all of their local enforcement funding.

Every year in Massachusetts, tobacco use claims approximately 9,000 lives and costs the state more than $3.5 billion in health care bills, including $1 billion under the Medicaid program. Smoking-caused government expenditures amount to a hidden tax of $742 per Massachusetts' household. The tobacco industry spends more than $233 million a year on marketing in Massachusetts, amounting to 28 times what the state currently spends on tobacco prevention.

Massachusetts this year will collect $658 million in tobacco-generated revenue from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes. It would take just five percent of this tobacco revenue for Massachusetts to fund its tobacco prevention program at the CDC-recommended minimum level of $35.2 million a year.

The report and corresponding charts issued by the Tobacco Free Mass Coalition and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids can be found at: www.tobaccofreekids.org/documents/MA_program_rpt-4-9-07.pdf

Tobacco Free Mass is a privately funded coalition that advocates for funding and policies that support tobacco prevention and reduction of the public's exposure to secondhand smoke.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, based in Washington, D.C., is a leader in the fight to reduce tobacco use in the United States and around the world. By changing public attitudes and public policies about tobacco, the Campaign works to prevent kids from smoking, help smokers quit and protect everyone from secondhand smoke.

 

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