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New CDC Study: Well-Funded Tobacco Control Programs Can Reduce Number of Smokers by Millions

Statement of William V. Corr, Executive Director, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
January 30, 2008

Washington, D.C. — As state legislatures across the country convene their 2008 sessions, an important new study provides powerful evidence of the direct relationship between increased funding for state tobacco prevention and cessation programs and declines in adult smoking.

The study, being published in the February 2008 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, examined state tobacco prevention and cessation funding levels from 1995 to 2003 and found that the more states spent on these programs, the larger the declines they achieved in adult smoking, even when controlling for other factors such as increased tobacco prices. The researchers also calculated that if every state had funded their programs at the levels recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) during that period, there would have been between 2.2 million and 7.1 million fewer smokers in the United States by 2003. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids estimates that such smoking declines would have saved between 700,000 and 2.2 million lives as well as between $20 billion and $67 billion in health care costs.

The new study was conducted by researchers at the CDC and RTI International, an independent nonprofit research institute based in Research Triangle Park, N.C. The study adds to earlier research, using similar methods, which demonstrated the same type of relationship between program spending and youth smoking declines. These studies, along with reviews by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Sciences, the President’s Cancer Panel and numerous other experts demonstrate conclusively that state tobacco prevention and cessation programs work to prevent kids from smoking and help adults quit, thereby saving lives and health care dollars.

This overwhelming evidence that state tobacco prevention and cessation programs work and deliver so many health and financial benefits leaves elected leaders with no excuse for failing to fund such programs in every state at CDC-recommended levels. The decision should be an easy one:

  • The problem is huge and warrants urgent action. Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S, resulting in 400,000 premature deaths and costing the nation nearly $100 billion in health care bills each year.
  • We know the solution works. Comprehensive, well-funded state tobacco prevention and cessation programs are highly effective, especially when combined with higher tobacco taxes and smoke-free workplace laws.
  • States have the revenue. The states will collect about $25 billion this year in revenue from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes. It would take just 15 percent of this revenue for each state to fund a tobacco prevention and cessation program at the CDC’s new recommended levels. Right now, the states are spending less than 3 percent.
  • The public supports it. Poll after poll shows that Americans strongly believe tobacco settlement and tax dollars should be spent on tobacco prevention.

States with well-funded programs have reported strong success. Washington state, with a well-funded tobacco prevention and cessation program, has reduced adult smoking by 24 percent since it launched the program in 1999. Washington’s dramatic decline in adult smoking translates to more than 230,000 fewer smokers in the state, saving about $2.1 billion in future health care costs

Despite the overwhelming evidence that state tobacco prevention and cessation programs are highly effective when they are funded appropriately, only three states currently fund these programs at even the minimum level recommended by the CDC. This is part of the reason that declines in both youth and adult smoking in the United States have stalled in recent years. With the tobacco companies spending more $13.4 billion per year marketing their deadly products, it is imperative that state leaders act now to fund programs that we know work to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit.

The CDC recently updated its recommendations to the states for funding and implementing tobacco prevention and cessation programs, taking into account new scientific evidence, state experiences and cost factors such as inflation and population increases since last issuing its recommendations in 1999 (see CDC’s Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs – 2007). The new study should spur state legislatures and governors to heed the CDC’s call for greater investment in programs proven to reduce smoking, save lives, and save money.

View a state-by-state chart of CDC’s updated spending recommendations.