/PRNewswire-/ -- The states have slashed funding for programs to reduce tobacco use to the lowest level since 1999, when they first received tobacco settlement funds, according to a report released today by a coalition of public health organizations.
The states this year (Fiscal Year 2011) will collect $25.3 billion in revenue from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend only two percent of it – $517.9 million – on programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. The states have cut funding for such programs by nine percent ($51.4 million) in the past year and by 28 percent ($199.3 million) in the past three years.
With the U.S. adult smoking rate stalled at 20.6 percent after decades of decline, the report warns that continued progress against tobacco use – the nation's number one cause of preventable death – is at risk unless states increase funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs. The report also calls on states to increase tobacco taxes and, for states that have yet to do so, to enact strong smoke-free laws that apply to all workplaces, restaurants and bars.
The report further calls on the federal government to robustly fund and implement the national tobacco prevention strategy unveiled last week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including launching a national media campaign to discourage kids from smoking and encourage smokers to quit.
The report, titled "A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 12 Years Later," was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. These organizations have issued annual reports assessing whether the states have kept their promise to use funds from the state tobacco settlements – estimated to total $246 billion over the first 25 years – to fight tobacco use.
"We know how to win the fight against tobacco, but we will not win it unless elected officials at all levels step up efforts to implement proven solutions," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "Despite their budgetary challenges, the states are collecting huge sums from the tobacco industry and should be spending more of it to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. Tobacco prevention is a smart investment for the states that saves lives and saves money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs."
Other findings of this year's report include:
* Most states are falling far short of meeting recommended funding levels for tobacco prevention programs set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The $517.9 million the states have budgeted amounts to just 14 percent of the $3.7 billion the CDC recommends for all the states combined.
* Counting both state funds and federal grants, only two states – Alaska and North Dakota – currently fund tobacco prevention programs at CDC-recommended levels. Only five other states provide even half the recommended funding, while 33 states and DC provide less than a quarter. Three states – Nevada, New Hampshire and Ohio – provide zero state funds for tobacco prevention this year.
* Tobacco companies spend nearly $25 to market tobacco products for every $1 the states spend to fight tobacco use. According to the latest data from the Federal Trade Commission, tobacco companies spend $12.8 billion a year on marketing.
* Federal grants, most of them temporary, have helped to cushion the impact of funding cuts in some states. In the past year, the federal government has provided $261.6 million in state and community grants specifically dedicated to reducing tobacco use (the grants are spread over three fiscal years, so not all the money will be spent in fiscal 2011).
The report comes as recent surveys have found that smoking declines in the United States have slowed and even stalled. The CDC recently reported that the adult smoking rate in 2009 was 20.6 percent – essentially unchanged since 2004 when 20.9 percent smoked. While smoking among high school students has declined by 46 percent from a high of 36.4 percent in 1997, 19.5 percent still smoke.
"We know that much of what helps us live longer, healthier lives happens outside the doctor's office," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "With progress on smoking rates stalled, it's more important than ever for states to focus on community prevention programs and policies that work – like smoke-free restaurants and workplaces and adequate funding to prevent kids from starting and to help smokers quit."
"For every step forward in curbing tobacco use among Americans, many states have taken two steps backwards," said American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown. "The public health community is appalled at the lack of commitment among a vast majority of states to adequately fund comprehensive tobacco prevention and cessation programs with the settlement dollars. As tobacco companies devise new tactics to increase smoking rates among children and adults, it's more important than ever to protect Americans from the dangers of tobacco use and give smokers the necessary tools to reduce their risk for heart disease, stroke and other smoking-related illnesses."
"Fully funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs stop addiction before it starts and improve the health of our nation's communities," said John R. Seffrin, PhD, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society. "Given the record low amount that states are allocating to these important programs, they simply must do a better job at properly allocating funding that helps reduce tobacco use and protects the health of children, 4,100 of whom try their first cigarette every day."
"States have a responsibility to prevent people from starting to smoke and to ensure that all smokers have easy access to cessation treatments and services as the human and financial toll of tobacco continues to rise," said Charles D. Connor, American Lung Association President and CEO. "Preventing kids from smoking and helping smokers quit saves lives and money."
Tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke kill more than 400,000 people in the United States each year and cost the nation more than $96 billion in health care bills. Every day, another 1,000 kids become regular smokers – one-third of them will die prematurely as a result.
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