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New Report: States Slash Tobacco Prevention Funding by 36%, Spend Less than 2 Cents of Every Tobacco Dollar to Fight Tobacco Use

November 30, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – States have slashed funding for programs to reduce tobacco use by 12 percent in the past year and by 36 percent over the past four years, threatening the nation’s progress against tobacco, according to a report released today by a coalition of public health organizations.

The states this year (Fiscal Year 2012) will collect a near-record $25.6 billion in revenue from the 1998 state tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend only 1.8 percent of it – $456.7 million – on programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. This means the states are spending less than two cents of every dollar in tobacco revenue to fight tobacco use.

Both the total amounts states are spending on tobacco prevention programs and the percentage of tobacco revenue spent on these programs are the lowest since 1999, when the states first received significant tobacco settlement funds. With nearly 20 percent of Americans still smoking, the report warns that continued progress against tobacco use – the nation’s number one cause of preventable death – is at risk unless states increase funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs. The report also calls on states to increase tobacco taxes and, for states that have yet to do so, to enact strong smoke-free laws that apply to all workplaces, restaurants and bars.

The report further calls on the federal government to launch a national tobacco prevention and cessation campaign, including a mass-media campaign and support for telephone quitlines, as the Obama Administration proposed in its Tobacco Control Strategic Action Plan. It also calls for preservation of the Prevention and Public Health Fund, created by the health care reform law to support such disease prevention initiatives.

The report, titled “A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 13 Years Later,” 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. Issued annually, the report assesses whether states have kept their promise to use tobacco settlement funds – expected to total $246 billion over the first 25 years – to fight tobacco use.

“More than ever, this report shows that the states have squandered the opportunity presented by the tobacco settlement to significantly reduce tobacco use and its devastating toll on our nation,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “It’s no coincidence that progress against tobacco has slowed at the same time that states have slashed tobacco prevention funds. We cannot win the fight against tobacco unless elected officials at all levels step up efforts to implement proven solutions.”

Key Findings

Other findings of this year's report include:

  • Most states are falling far short of recommended funding levels for tobacco prevention programs set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The $456.7 million the states have budgeted is just 12 percent of the $3.7 billion the CDC recommends for all the states combined. It would take less than 15 percent of total state tobacco revenues to fully fund tobacco prevention programs in every state.
  • States have cut funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs by $61.2 million (12 percent) in the past year and by $260.5 million (36 percent) in the past four years.
  • Counting both state funds and federal grants, only Alaska and North Dakota currently fund tobacco prevention programs at CDC-recommended levels. Only four other states provide even half the recommended funding, while 33 states and Washington, DC, provide less than a quarter. Four states – Connecticut, Nevada, New Hampshire and Ohio – and DC have budgeted zero state funds for tobacco prevention this year.
  • Tobacco companies spend $23 to market tobacco products for every $1 the states spend to fight tobacco use. According to the latest data from the Federal Trade Commission, tobacco companies spend $10.5 billion a year on marketing.
  • Federal grants have helped to cushion the impact of state funding cuts, but some of that funding is temporary and will run out this year. In fiscal year 2012, the federal government is providing $91.2 million in state and community grants to reduce tobacco use. States have also received $196.4 million in stimulus funds for tobacco prevention, some of which will be spent this year.

The report comes as recent surveys have found that smoking declines in the United States have slowed. The CDC recently reported that the adult smoking rate in 2010 was 19.3 percent — only a small decline since 2004 when 20.9 percent smoked. While smoking among high school students has declined by 46 percent from a high of 36.4 percent in 1997, 19.5 percent still smoke.

'It is truly penny-wise and pound-foolish for the states to cut funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs,” said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association. “These programs not only reduce smoking, but also lower tobacco-related health care costs that total nearly $100 billion annually. Tobacco prevention programs are smart investments that save lives and money.'

'Tobacco prevention and cessation programs are a great example that when we invest in prevention and public health, we save lives, improve health and reduce health care costs. For example, we know that smoke-free workplaces and funding programs to help smokers quit are a win for business, worker productivity and a healthier community,' said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

'We know that the most effective way to curb the tobacco epidemic in this country is through regularly and significantly increasing tobacco taxes, enacting comprehensive smoke-free laws and fully funding tobacco prevention and cessation programs,' said John R. Seffrin, PhD, chief executive officer, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society. “States are putting lives at risk and leaving potential state revenue on the table when they fall short of implementing strong tobacco control policies.'

'The continued devastating cuts in tobacco prevention spending in 2011 are unfortunately part of a broader pattern of states backsliding on putting in place policies and making investments to fight tobacco use,' said American Lung Association President and CEO Charles D. Connor. 'States are missing a key opportunity to save lives and money.'

'Comprehensive tobacco control programs not only reduce smoking, but they also prevent a new generation of young smokers and lead to policies that protect workers from exposure to secondhand smoke in public places and workplaces,' said Cynthia Hallett, MPH, Executive Director of Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights. 'It is a tragedy that less that 2 percent of tobacco revenue goes to evidence-based tobacco prevention programs. States should be advocating for public health and not toeing the line for the tobacco industry.'

Tobacco use kills more than 400,000 people in the United States each year and costs the nation $96 billion in health care bills. Every day, another 1,000 kids become regular smokers — one-third of them will die prematurely as a result.

(NOTE: Alabama’s tobacco prevention program budget for FY2012 was not available when this report went to press. Alabama historically has provided minimal funding for tobacco prevention. In FY 2011, Alabama budgeted $860,000, which is just 1.5 percent of the CDC’s recommendation.)