Comprehensive, well-funded state programs that prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit are proven to save lives and money.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has established Best Practices that recommend key elements of tobacco prevention and cessation programs and how much each state should spend on them.
Key elements include:
Hard-hitting education and media campaigns;
Community and school-based programs;
Effective enforcement of laws prohibiting tobacco sales to minors;
Affordable, accessible assistance for smokers trying to quit;
Rigorous evaluation to ensure these programs are delivering results.
The evidence is clear: The more states spend on these programs, and the longer they do so, the greater the impact.
Unfortunately, most states are failing to properly fund these programs — and have slashed funding in recent years — despite collecting more than $25 billion a year in tobacco revenue from the 1998 state tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and our public health partners issue an annual report assessing whether the states are adequately funding tobacco prevention and cessation programs, as many states promised to do at the time of the tobacco settlement. Our latest report, issued in November 2010, gave most states a failing grade:
The states this year (Fiscal Year 2011) will collect $25.3 billion from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but are spending only two percent of it — $517.9 million — on tobacco prevention and cessation programs.
The states cut funding for such programs by 28 percent ($199.3 million) in the past three years.
Only two states — Alaska and North Dakota — currently fund tobacco prevention programs at CDC-recommended levels.
Altogether, the states are providing just 14 percent of the CDC’s recommended funding.
The states lack excuses for failing to do more given their huge sums of tobacco revenue and the extensive evidence that tobacco prevention programs are highly effective:
Tobacco prevention programs reduce smoking. States with sustained, well-funded prevention programs, such as Maine, New York and Washington, have reduced youth smoking by 45 to 60 percent.
Tobacco prevention programs save lives. California, with the nation’s longest-running prevention and cessation programs, has reduced lung and bronchus cancer rates four times faster than the rest of the U.S. Washington state estimates that its smoking reductions have prevented 13,000 premature deaths.
Tobacco prevention programs save money. A peer-reviewed study concluded California’s program saved $86 billion in health care costs in its first 15 years, nearly 50 times what the state spent.
Cutbacks in state programs are a key reason why U.S. smoking declines have slowed and even stalled in recent years. To continue reducing smoking, states must increase funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs.