Landmark National Cancer Institute Report Concludes Cigarette Tax Increases and Tobacco Prevention Programs Reduce Youth Smoking

Public Health Groups Urge States to Seize Opportunity and Enact Proven Measures
April 02, 2002

Washington, DC — A report on adolescent smoking released today by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) concludes that cigarette tax increases and comprehensive tobacco prevention programs are proven effective at reducing the number of kids who smoke. The report was released as states faced with large budget deficits are making critical decisions about how much funding to provide for tobacco prevention programs and whether to increase cigarette taxes.

'This NCI report makes it clearer than ever that we know how to reduce tobacco use and the devastation it causes to the nation's health; we just need the political will to implement these proven solutions,' said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. 'Cigarette tax increases and comprehensive tobacco prevention programs are the equivalent of a vaccine that can inoculate our kids against tobacco use and the addiction, disease and death that result. Governors and legislators across the country should act now to provide this vaccine to every child.'

The NCI report, 'Changing Adolescent Smoking Prevalence,' is the first major update of adolescent smoking behavior since 1994. It finds that comprehensive state tobacco prevention programs in California, Massachusetts and Florida were successful at preventing kids from smoking in the 1990s when smoking rates were skyrocketing nationally. It also finds that cigarette tax increases are effective both at preventing kids from starting to smoke and at getting current young smokers to quit.

'Research clearly indicates that tobacco control interventions…can be very effective in reducing cigarette smoking among adolescents. In particular, these include increased tobacco taxation and stronger tobacco control policies,' the report concludes.

While the NCI study mainly examines results from the early to mid-1990's, California, Massachusetts and Florida, as well as other states, have recently reported even more significant results. These results show that tobacco prevention programs have dramatically reduced smoking rates, saved lives by reducing lung cancer and heart disease, and saved millions of dollars in smoking-caused health care costs:

CALIFORNIA: In 1988, California voters approved a 25 cents a pack increase in the state cigarette tax, with some of the revenue earmarked for a comprehensive tobacco prevention program that was launched in 1990. Since the passage of the 1988 cigarette tax increase, cigarette consumption in California has declined by more than 58 percent, compared to just 33 percent for the country as a whole. From 1994 to 2000, smoking among 12 to 17 year olds declined by 35 percent. Studies have found that California has prevented tens of thousands of deaths from heart disease and lung cancer due to smoking and the state's tobacco prevention program is saving three dollars in direct smoking-caused health costs for every dollar spent on prevention.

MASSACHUSETTS: In 1992, Massachusetts voters approved a 25 cents per pack increase in the state cigarette tax, with some of the revenue earmarked for a comprehensive tobacco prevention program that was launched in 1993. Massachusetts' cigarette consumption declined by 32 percent between 1992 and 1999, compared to a decrease of just 8 percent in the rest of the country (excluding California). From 1995 to 2001, smoking rates among Massachusetts high school students declined by 27 percent. A 2000 study found that the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program reduces total health care spending in the state by $85 million a year, which means the program is saving well over two dollars in smoking-caused health costs for every dollar spent on prevention.

FLORIDA: In the three years after launching its tobacco prevention program in 1998, Florida cut smoking rates by 47 percent among middle school students and 30 percent among high school students. This decline represents nearly 75,000 fewer youth smokers and more than 24,000 fewer premature smoking deaths, according to the Florida Department of Health. However, Florida's progress has been stalled by recent budget cuts, demonstrating the need for sustained tobacco prevention funding over time.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 Americans every year. Ninety percent of all smokers start at or before age 18. Every day, 5,000 kids try their first cigarette. Another 2,000 kids become regular, daily smokers, one-third of whom will die prematurely as a result.

The NCI study comes as kids across the country prepare to participate Wednesday in the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids' annual Kick Butts Day, which will feature more than 1,500 events in which young people make their voices heard on tobacco issues. This year, many events are focused on urging state leaders to fund prevention programs and increase cigarette taxes.

Monograph 14: Changing Adolescent Smoking Prevalence: Where It Is and Why was compiled by over 30 public health experts from throughout the United States. David M. Burns, M.D., of the University of California at San Diego, was the senior scientific editor of the monograph.

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For a copy of the Monograph, please go to www.cancercontrol.cancer.gov/tcrb/monographs/

More information on the benefits of cigarette tax increases and comprehensive tobacco prevention programs is available at www.tobaccofreekids.org/reports/prices (tax issues) and www.tobaccofreekids.org/reports/settlements (prevention programs).