Impressive Washington State Results… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Impressive Washington State Results Show Tobacco Prevention Programs

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
March 04, 2003

Washington, D.C. — Washington State's survey of youth tobacco use released today provides powerful new evidence that aggressive public health measures, including comprehensive tobacco prevention programs and cigarette tax increases, are working to reduce youth tobacco use. The survey found that Washington, which implemented its tobacco prevention program in 2000, reduced smoking by 40 percent among 10th graders and by 36 percent among 12th graders between 1999 and 2002. Between 1998 and 2002, the state reduced smoking by 53 percent among 6th graders and by 39 percent among 8th graders. These are among the largest declines in youth smoking rates of any state in the nation and demonstrate why Washington's tobacco prevention program deserves strong continued support from Governor Gary Locke and legislators.

Given the overwhelming evidence from Washington and other states that tobacco prevention works, it is tragic that so many states are seeking to cut funding for tobacco prevention programs. The evidence is clear that tobacco prevention is one of the smartest and most fiscally responsible investments states can make, even in difficult budget times. If states invest in tobacco prevention now, they will not only reduce smoking and save lives, but also save far more than they spend on prevention 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. If states fail to invest in tobacco prevention, they will pay a high price in health, lives and money. States have difficult budget choices to make, but it is penny wise and pound foolish for them to cut tobacco prevention.

It is also important to note that, 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. With more tobacco money than ever and more evidence than ever that prevention programs work, elected officials have more of an obligation than ever to adequately fund and implement comprehensive tobacco prevention programs in every state. As of last January, the states in the current budget year are collecting a record $20.3 billion in tobacco-generated revenue, an increase of nine percent from the year before. But they have cut spending on already under-funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs by $86.2 million, or 11 percent.

Washington is succeeding because it has invested in a comprehensive tobacco prevention program as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Surgeon General of the United States. The state in 1999 committed $100 million of its tobacco settlement money in a multi-year effort to launch its tobacco prevention program. Then in 2001, Washington voters overwhelmingly approved Initiative 773, which increased the state's cigarette tax by 60 cents per pack and use a portion of the revenue to increase funding for the state's Tobacco Prevention and Control Program.

Because of the wisdom of Washington's leaders and voters, the state today is reporting declines in youth smoking across the board – in every age and racial category, and in the largest cities and smallest towns. Smoking declined by 29 percent among Native Americans, by 27 percent among African Americans, by 36 percent among Asian Americans, and 19 percent among Hispanics. Washington's declines in youth smoking for 10th and 12th graders exceeded national declines. According to national data in the federal government's annual Monitoring the Future survey, smoking declined by 31 percent among 10th graders and by 23 percent among 12th graders between 1999 and 2002.

Washington'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 47 percent among 8th graders and 26 percent among 11th graders since 1996; Maine, which cut high school smoking by 36 percent from 1997 to 2001; and Mississippi, which cut smoking by 47 percent among public middle school students and by 28 percent among public high school students since 1999. Studies show California, which started the nation's oldest tobacco prevention program in 1990, has saved tens of thousands of lives by reducing smoking-caused birth complications, heart disease, strokes and lung cancer. Unfortunately, we also have strong evidence from several states, including Florida and California, that funding cuts can quickly reduce the effectiveness of tobacco prevention programs.

Washington's results also show that increasing cigarette excise taxes is also effective at reducing smoking rates. Every state that has raised its cigarette tax in recent years has both reduced smoking and increased revenues to balance budgets and fund vital programs. Studies show that every 10 percent increase in the cigarette tax will reduce youth smoking by approximately seven percent and overall cigarette consumption by three to five percent. As Washington voters showed when they approved a 60-cent per pack increase in that state's cigarette tax by a 65 to 35 percent margin, raising cigarette taxes is also politically popular. The right way to balance state budgets is to increase the cigarette tax, not to raid tobacco prevention programs.