Pennies for Prevention

December 06, 2012

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The states are collecting record amounts of revenue from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but are spending only a tiny portion on programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, according to a report released today by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other public health organizations.

This year, the states will take in $25.7 billion in tobacco revenues. But they're spending less than two cents of every tobacco dollar — $459.5 million altogether — to fight tobacco use.

By shortchanging tobacco prevention programs, the states are setting back efforts to reduce tobacco use, which is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States.

They're also missing out on an opportunity to reduce tobacco-related health care costs, which total $96 billion a year in the U.S., the report warns. There is growing evidence that tobacco prevention programs save lives and save money. One recent study found that Washington State saved more than $5 in tobacco-related hospitalization costs for every $1 spent during the first 10 years of its program.

Other findings in the report:

  • States are providing just 12.4 percent of the tobacco prevention funding recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • States have failed to reverse deep budget cuts that slashed funding for tobacco prevention by 36 percent over the past four years.
  • Only two states — Alaska and North Dakota — currently fund tobacco prevention programs at the CDC-recommended levels. Only three other states — Delaware, Wyoming and Hawaii — provide even half the CDC-recommended funding.

As The New York Times notes in a story today, states have cut funding for tobacco prevention despite strong evidence — 'growing certainty,' the Times says — that these programs work to reduce smoking.

“We know the problem, we know the solution, we know the public supports this — our policymakers are not listening, and it’s costing us taxpayer dollars,' Danny McGoldrick, vice president of research at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told Kaiser Health News.

The report, titled 'Broken Promises to Our Children,' was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.