Zero Dollars for Prevention Risks More Teen Smokers in North Carolina

December 17, 2012

Recently, we released a report showing that the states this year will collect a record $25.7 billion in revenue from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend less than two percent of it — $459.5 million — on programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. That’s less than two pennies of every dollar in tobacco revenue to fight tobacco use.

Of the states, North Carolina is one of the worst offenders. This year, North Carolina lawmakers eliminated funding for the state’s highly successful tobacco prevention and cessation program.  North Carolina will collect $433 million in tobacco revenues, but will spend none of it to keep kids from smoking.

Among other things, this meant the termination of the successful Tobacco Reality Unfiltered (TRU) ad campaign, which helped prevent 53,000 students from smoking cigarettes.

'We know that 1 in 5 deaths in North Carolina is related to tobacco and the cost in health care is above $2 billion to North Carolinians, so we definitely will pay for this on the back end with health care costs,” said Mary Gillett, the Tobacco Prevention Coordinator for the Guilford County Department of Public Health, in an interview with WFMY News 2 in Greensboro.

Here’s the video:


In an op-ed in The Raleigh News & Observer, N.C. State Professor of Sociology Michael Schwalbe called elimination of the prevention program “stunning shortsightedness.”

“In 2012 the temptation of false economy – scrimp on prevention today, pay a big price tomorrow — was too strong for legislators to resist. New legislators who are as committed to fiscal responsibility as they claim to be will redirect [settlement] funds to the purpose for which they were intended:  lowering the cost burden of tobacco-related disease,” Schwalbe wrote.