House Appropriations Committee Cuts Funding for CDC’s Life-Saving Tobacco Control Programs

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
July 20, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – For the second week in a row, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee has approved legislation that jeopardizes our nation’s progress in reducing tobacco use and puts the tobacco industry’s interests before America’s kids and health.

Late Wednesday, the committee approved a bill that cuts funding for the CDC’s tobacco control programs by nearly a quarter, threatening the continued success of the CDC’s highly effective initiatives to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. Last week, the Appropriations Committee approved a separate bill with two provisions that greatly weaken FDA oversight of e-cigarettes and cigars now on the market, including the many candy-flavored products introduced in recent years, and completely exempt some cigars from FDA oversight.

Taken together, these bills undermine the work of two agencies with critical roles in fighting tobacco use – the nation’s No. 1 cause of preventable death. The tobacco industry will win and our kids will lose if these harmful proposals are allowed to become law.

The bill approved today cuts funding for the CDC’s tobacco control programs from $205 million to $155 million. The committee defeated an amendment offered by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz to restore the funding. We thank Rep. Wasserman Schultz for her leadership in offering this amendment and the committee members who supported it. (The CDC’s funding is included in the appropriations bill that funds the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies for Fiscal Year 2018).

The proposed cut puts at risk key CDC initiatives to reduce tobacco use, such as the Tips from Former Smokers media campaign that has been very cost-effective at helping smokers quit and the grants the CDC provides to all 50 states to help run tobacco prevention and cessation programs. Since its launch in 2012, the Tips campaign has motivated about five million smokers to try to quit, helped about 500,000 smokers to quit successfully and saved at least 50,000 lives, according to the CDC. At a cost of less than $400 for each year of life saved, it is considered a “best buy” in public health.

This funding cut makes no sense given the proven effectiveness of the CDC’s tobacco prevention and cessation programs and tobacco’s continuing toll in health, lives and health care dollars. Despite tremendous progress in reducing smoking, tobacco use still kills more than 480,000 Americans each year and costs our nation $170 billion annually in health care bills, more than 60 percent of which is paid by taxpayers through government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

It is especially baffling that Congress would cut funding for initiatives that prevent serious, costly diseases like cancer and heart disease in the very same bill that increases funding for medical research to find cures for such diseases. They seem to have forgotten the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.