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New CDC Reports Show State Spending on Tobacco Prevention is Woefully Inadequate to Address Skyrocketing Toll of Tobacco Use

Campaign: Reports Are Call to Action for Public Officials
April 11, 2002

Washington, DC — The medical and economic costs of tobacco use in the United States have skyrocketed to more than $150 billion a year, but states are recovering only a small fraction of that amount from the tobacco companies and spending woefully inadequate amounts on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, according to two comprehensive new reports released today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

One study, in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, finds that tobacco-caused medical expenditures nationwide increased by 42 percent from 1993 to 1998, from $53.2 billion to $75.5 billion (other economic models have estimated even higher costs). These costs have increased in every state in the nation. In addition, tobacco-caused productivity losses averaged $81.9 billion a year from 1995 to 1999, according to the CDC.

In contrast to these tremendous and growing tobacco-caused costs, a second CDC report on state tobacco control efforts found that states receive only about $16 billion in revenue a year from the tobacco companies from both tobacco settlement payments and state tobacco excise taxes. This is just one-tenth of the tobacco-related costs identified in the first report, despite the frequent claims of the tobacco companies that pay more to governments than the costs of tobacco use.

In addition, the states reported to the CDC that they allocated only $861 million in fiscal year 2002 for tobacco prevention and cessation programs, encompassing funding from all federal, state and non-governmental sources. This is just half of one percent of tobacco-caused costs and barely five percent of the funds states collect in tobacco settlement and tobacco tax revenue. This is also just one-tenth of the $8.4 billion a year that the tobacco industry spends marketing its products, according to the most recent report of the Federal Trade Commission. The CDC report also confirms that only a handful of states are funding tobacco prevention programs at minimum levels recommended by the CDC.

While the states do so little, the toll of tobacco continues to mount, not only in dollars, but in lives as well. The first CDC report finds that tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 440,000 people each year from 1995 to 1999. The report also estimates that 6.4 million children alive today will die prematurely of tobacco-related deaths, up from 5.3 million estimated in a 1996 CDC study.

'The American people should be horrified and outraged to learn that our nation is devoting so few resources to fighting a tobacco epidemic that costs us so much in lives and money,' said Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. 'Our failure to do more is especially inexcusable in light of the conclusive evidence that we know what works to reduce tobacco use, especially among kids, and the devastation it causes to our nation. States that have implemented comprehensive tobacco prevention programs and increased tobacco taxes have dramatically cut smoking among both children and adults, reduced the incidence of lung cancer and heart disease, and saved millions in health care costs. These CDC reports strip public officials of all excuses not to act.'

The CDC, the National Cancer Institute, the U.S. Surgeon General and other leading public health authorities have all endorsed comprehensive tobacco prevention programs and tobacco tax increases as effective tools to reduce tobacco use.

Comprehensive tobacco prevention programs have produced dramatic results in states that have implemented them, including in Florida, which has reduced smoking rates by 47 percent among high school students and 30 percent among middle school students in just three years; in Maine, which has cut smoking among high school students by 36 percent in three years; in Oregon, which has cut smoking among eighth graders by 41 percent since 1996; and in Mississippi, which has cut public high school smoking by 25 percent since 1999. California's pioneering program has prevented tens of thousands of deaths from heart disease and lung cancer, according to studies. And the longstanding programs in Massachusetts and California are now saving up to $3 in health costs for every dollar spent on the programs, according to evaluations of these programs.

Numerous studies have also shown the positive impact of tobacco tax increases. According to studies, every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces youth smoking by seven percent and overall cigarette consumption by three to five percent, while raising much-needed revenue. Polls have also shown strong public support for tobacco tax increases.

As they address large budget deficits, numerous states are currently debating how much funding to provide for tobacco prevention programs and whether to increase cigarette excise taxes.

In addition to these state measures, public health leaders today also said the new CDC report underscored the need for Congress to grant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration effective and comprehensive authority over tobacco products and for federal and state government health care programs and private insurers to provide health insurance coverage for medication and counseling to help smokers quit.

'The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded that a combination of comprehensive prevention and cessation programs, tobacco tax increases and regulatory efforts can cut tobacco use in half by the year 2010. Only if policy makers at all levels act now to implement these measures can we reduce the devastating toll of tobacco exposed today by the CDC,' said William V. Corr, Executive Vice President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

CDC Reports: