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New Survey Showing Large Decline in High School Smoking Is Proof that Tobacco Prevention Measures Work

Statement of William V. Corr Executive Director, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
November 14, 2003

Washington, DC — The results of the 2002 National Youth Tobacco Survey released today by the American Legacy Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides powerful new evidence that tobacco prevention programs, tobacco tax increases and other tobacco control measures are working to significantly reduce youth tobacco use in this country. The survey results, published in the November 14, 2003, issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, find that the cigarette smoking rate among high school students (grades 9-12) declined by about 18 percent, from 28 percent in 2000 to 22.9 percent in 2002. These results are similar to those of other national surveys, including the annual Monitoring the Future survey, that have found significant declines in youth smoking rates in recent years.

The recent declines in youth smoking rates are great news for the nation’s health and should spur the states to accelerate their tobacco prevention efforts, rather than reverse them as too many states have done over the past two years. The youth smoking declines reflected in the new survey occurred in a two-year period during which funding for state tobacco prevention programs was at peak levels, the American Legacy Foundation launched its national youth anti-smoking campaign, and cigarette prices increased significantly as a result of tobacco settlement-related price increases and state and federal cigarette tax increases. The bad news is that since 2002, the states collectively have cut funding for tobacco prevention programs by 28 percent, or $209 million. Today, only four states – Maine, Delaware, Mississippi and Arkansas – are funding tobacco prevention programs at the minimum levels recommended by the CDC, and more than three-fourths of the states are funding tobacco prevention programs at less than half the CDC’s recommendation, or providing no funding at all, as shown by a report released by public health groups this week. This is despite the fact that it would take only about eight percent of the $19.5 billion the states will receive this year in tobacco settlement and tobacco tax money to fund prevention programs at CDC minimum levels in every state.

Our nation is making unprecedented progress in reducing youth smoking by applying comprehensive, science-based measures including tobacco prevention programs and tobacco tax increases. We know from today’s survey and the experience of states that have implemented such measures that these solutions work. If states aggressively implement proven tobacco prevention measures, we can accelerate the gains we have made and make them permanent. If states continue to reduce their efforts, our progress can quickly be reversed, and we will lose the opportunity to achieve one of the greatest public health victories in our nation’s history.