Dramatic Decline in New Hampshire… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Dramatic Decline in New Hampshire Youth Smoking Shows Price Increases and Tobacco Prevention Programs Work and Should Be Implemented Aggressively in Every State

Statement of William V. Corr, Executive Vice President Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
January 10, 2003

Washington, D.C. — A new study showing that youth smoking rates have declined dramatically in New Hampshire underscores once again that aggressive tobacco prevention measures, including cigarette price increases and comprehensive tobacco prevention programs, work to protect our kids from smoking and the tremendous harm it causes. The study, issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in this week's issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), shows that in New Hampshire smoking rates declined by 47.5 percent among middle school students from 2000 to 2001 and by 30.6 percent among high school students from 1995 to 2001. The CDC attributed these declines to cigarette price increases and comprehensive tobacco prevention programs. This study is powerful evidence that we know how to reduce youth tobacco use. Now more than ever, elected officials have an obligation to implement these proven solutions in every state.

First, according to the CDC study, from 1997 to 2001, the price of cigarettes in New Hampshire increased 100 percent, from $1.77 to $3.53 per pack. This increase included price increases imposed by the tobacco industry, as well as a 27-cent increase in the state cigarette tax and a 10-cent increase in the federal cigarette tax during this period. Second, New Hampshire, in addition to having a modest tobacco prevention program of its own, benefited from being surrounded by three states – Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont – that have had three of the best-funded tobacco prevention programs in the nation. New Hampshire shares media markets with these states, exposing New Hampshire's children to aggressive and effective advertising about the tobacco industry's deceptive practices and harmful products.

New Hampshire benefited from price increases and counter-marketing campaigns which it did not initiate. However, if it is to continue reducing youth smoking rates, New Hampshire needs to raise its cigarette tax, which is below the national average at 52 cents a pack, and increase funding for tobacco prevention. These measures are especially vital in light of deep cuts to the tobacco prevention program in neighboring Massachusetts and ongoing tobacco company efforts to reduce the price of cigarettes, which will increase youth smoking rates if not countered. In addition, teen use of all forms of tobacco remains alarmingly high at 31 percent in New Hampshire, indicating a need for greater intervention and higher taxes on all tobacco products.

Despite the recent progress we have made in reducing youth smoking, we must redouble our efforts because the battle is far from won as more than a quarter of high school seniors nationally graduate as smokers. It is also troubling that we are turning into a nation of haves and have-nots with regard to tobacco prevention. Many states are doing the right thing – 21 states have increased cigarette taxes in the past year, and the number of states with comprehensive tobacco prevention programs has increased from two in 1995 to 15 today. However, the majority of states still have not implemented comprehensive tobacco prevention programs or increased their cigarette taxes in recent years. And many states have cut or are considering cutting funding for tobacco prevention because of the budget crises they face.

Tobacco use is still the leading preventable cause of death and disease in our country. It is unacceptable that smoking still kills more than 400,000 Americans every year. Comprehensive prevention programs and tobacco tax increases are the equivalent of a vaccine that is working to protect our kids from the addiction, disease and death caused by tobacco use. We have an obligation to provide this vaccine to every child in our country.