Washington's Success in Reducing Smoking Sets Example for the Nation

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

Aug. 1 2007

Washington, DC — The dramatic drop in Washington's adult smoking rate to a new state low, reported today by the Washington State Department of Health, sets an example for the nation by underscoring once again the positive impact of a comprehensive and aggressive approach to reducing tobacco use – including an increased cigarette tax, a strong smoke-free law and a well-funded tobacco prevention and cessation program. Washington is one of the few states that have implemented all three of these science-based measures to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, as recommended by public health experts. Washington's efforts are saving lives and saving money by preventing kids from smoking, helping smokers quit, protecting non-smokers from secondhand smoke and reducing tobacco-caused health care costs.

Washington's progress would not have happened without the vision and commitment of Governor Chris Gregoire, Secretary of Health Mary Selecky, state legislators and the dedicated public health professionals who administer the state's Tobacco Prevention and Control Program. Because of their leadership, Washington now has one of the lowest smoking rates in the nation.

We also applaud Governor Gregoire and the Legislature for recognizing that continued progress in reducing tobacco use requires a long-term commitment, which the state's leaders demonstrated earlier this year when they approved $50 million in additional funding for the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program. The new money will allow the state to maintain funding at current levels through 2012. While tobacco taxes and smoke-free laws receive significant attention when they are implemented and have an immediate impact on smoking rates, Washington's experience is an important reminder that continued reductions in smoking require a sustained investment in prevention and cessation programs, including hard-hitting advertising campaigns.

Since Washington's Tobacco Prevention and Control Program began in 2000, the adult smoking rate has declined from 22.4 percent to 17 percent in 2006, the Washington State Department of Health announced today. That translates to about 235,000 fewer smokers and a $2.1 billion savings in future health costs, according to the Health Department. Washington's adult smoking rate is well below the national rate of 20.9 percent (in 2005, the last year for which data has been released).

Washington has also significantly reduced youth smoking rates, with declines of 60 percent among sixth graders, 58 percent among eighth graders, 40 percent among 10th graders and 43 percent among 12th graders. Because of these declines, there are 65,000 fewer youth smokers in Washington.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people and costing the nation more than $96 billion in health care costs each year. Washington's success demonstrates more clearly than ever that we know how to reduce tobacco use and its devastating consequences and just need the political will to act. Elected leaders across the nation should follow Washington's lead in implementing a comprehensive, proven approach to reducing tobacco use that includes higher tobacco taxes, strong smoke-free workplace laws and well-funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

 

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