Dramatic Declines in Mississippi… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Dramatic Declines in Mississippi Youth Smoking Rates Show Prevention Programs Work and Should be Implemented in Every State

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
February 06, 2003

Washington, D.C. — In the three years after implementing its comprehensive tobacco prevention program in 1999, the state of Mississippi reduced youth smoking rates by 47 percent among public middle school students and by 28 percent among public high school students, according to a study released today by the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi. Mississippi's dramatic success in reducing youth smoking makes it a national leader in protecting kids from tobacco and adds to the overwhelming evidence that tobacco prevention programs work. These results show why tobacco prevention is one of the smartest and most fiscally responsible investments states can make, even in these difficult budget times. The evidence is clear that if states invest in tobacco prevention now, they will not only reduce smoking and save lives, but also save far more money that they spend by reducing smoking-caused health care costs. In fact, the best state tobacco prevention programs have saved up to three dollars for every dollar spent. States have difficult budget choices to make, but it is penny wise and pound foolish for them to cut tobacco prevention.

Mississippi is succeeding because it is one of the states that have kept their promise to use tobacco settlement money to protect kids from tobacco. Mississippi is one of only four states that currently fund tobacco prevention programs at the minimum levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If it is to continue to reduce youth smoking and realize the long-term health and fiscal benefits of tobacco prevention, Mississippi must continue to fund its tobacco prevention program at CDC-recommended levels.

Mississippi's results add to the powerful evidence from across the country that comprehensive tobacco prevention programs work. Other states that have reported dramatic results include Florida, which cut smoking by 47 percent among middle school students and 30 percent among high school students between 1998 and 2001; Oregon, which cut smoking by 41 percent among eight graders between 1996 and 2000; and Maine, which cut high school smoking by 36 percent from 1997 to 2001. Unfortunately, we also have strong evidence from Florida and California that funding cuts can quickly reduce the effectiveness of tobacco prevention programs.

Mississippi and other states have shown that we know what works to protect our kids from tobacco. And despite the budget problems they face, states actually have more tobacco money than ever before to fund tobacco prevention programs as a result of the tobacco settlement and recent state cigarette tax increases. Now more than ever, elected officials have an obligation to adequately fund and implement comprehensive tobacco prevention programs in every state.