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New CDC Guide Confirms Well-Funded Tobacco Prevention Programs Reduce Smoking, Save Lives and Money

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
January 30, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – As state legislatures across the country convene their 2014 sessions, a new best practices guide issued today by the CDC leaves them with simply no excuse for failing to fully fund programs that prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. The CDC’s Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs – 2014 shows that there is conclusive evidence that tobacco prevention and cessation programs work to reduce smoking, save lives and save money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs.

The CDC’s guide follows the recent Surgeon General’s report, which found that smoking is even more hazardous and takes an even greater toll on the nation’s health than previously thought. Both of these scientific documents make it crystal clear that fully funded state tobacco prevention programs, including mass media campaigns, are critical to accelerating declines in smoking and ultimately eliminating the death and disease caused by tobacco.

Among its key action steps, the Surgeon General’s report calls for “fully funding comprehensive statewide tobacco control programs at CDC recommended levels.” The CDC’s new guide updates recommendations to the states for funding and implementing such programs. It concludes, “Research shows that the more states spend on comprehensive tobacco control programs, the greater the reductions in smoking. The longer states invest in such programs, the great and quicker the impact.”

Unfortunately, the states currently fall woefully short of funding such programs at CDC-recommended levels. As a report we released in December showed, the states this year will receive $25 billion in revenue from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend only 1.9 percent of it – $481.2 million – on tobacco prevention programs. The CDC’s new guidelines recommend that the states collectively spend $3.3 billion on tobacco prevention programs. It would take just 13 percent of their tobacco revenues for the states to meet this recommendation.

Only two states – North Dakota and Alaska – currently fund tobacco prevention programs at the CDC-recommended level. Only five other states – Delaware, Wyoming, Hawaii, Oklahoma and Maine – provide even half the recommended funding. Thirty-one states, plus the District of Columbia, spend less than 25 percent of the CDC recommendation.

The states have no excuses for failing to do more. They have plenty of evidence that tobacco prevention programs work, and they have plenty of tobacco revenue to get the job done. The new Surgeon General’s report documents that smoking causes even more diseases, kills even more people (480,000 each year) and costs the nation even more in medical bills and other economic losses (at least $289 billion each year) than has previously been reported. Given the huge toll tobacco continues to take on the country and on every state, the states must do more.

There is more evidence than ever that tobacco prevention and cessation programs work:

  • Florida, which has a well-funded, sustained program, recently reported that its high school smoking rate fell to just 8.6 percent in 2013, far below national rates. Alaska, with another well-funded program, reported reducing high school smoking to 10.6 percent in 2013. From 2001–2010, the New York State Tobacco Control Program reported declines in adult and youth smoking rates that outpaced declines nationally.

  • In California, which has the nation’s longest-running tobacco control program, lung cancer rates have declined four times faster than in the rest of the United States.

  • Studies have also found that tobacco prevention programs deliver a strong return on investment. A 2011 study in the American Journal of Public Health 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. A February 2013 study found that, from 1989 to 2008, California’s tobacco control program reduced health care costs by $134 billion, far more than the $2.4 billion spent on the program. These results underscore how penny-wise and pound-foolish the states have been in shortchanging tobacco prevention and cessation programs

Comprehensive state tobacco prevention and cessation programs include the following key components: (1) coordinated state and community interventions aimed at preventing youth and young adults from starting to use tobacco, promoting quitting among current tobacco users and eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke; (2) mass media campaigns and other public education efforts; (3) cessation interventions that encourage and help tobacco users to quit; and (4) surveillance and evaluation activities that monitor attitudes, behaviors and health outcomes to ensure the program is having the desired impact.

While the nation has made enormous progress in reducing smoking, tobacco use remains the number one cause of preventable death in the United States. Every one of these deaths is entirely preventable if we do what we know works. What’s needed is the political will to fully implement proven strategies, including funding state tobacco prevention and cessation programs at CDC-recommended levels.