States are making drastic cuts in anti-smoking programs aimed primarily at teenagers, despite near-record increases in tobacco sales taxes and 1998 tobacco settlement proceeds earmarked for smoking prevention efforts.
According to a new report released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, funding in all but two states for programs designed to reduce smoking fell by 12 percent last year and by 36 percent over the past four years. If the cuts continue, the report noted, they will threaten the progress made in recent years across the country in reducing tobacco use among both adults and young people.
"With nearly 20 percent of Americans still smoking, 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 campaign said in a press release on the report.
States are expected to collect $25.6 billion this year in revenue from tobacco taxes and tobacco settlement payments. But according to the report, only 1.8 percent -- or about $456.7 million -- will actually be spent on programs designed to prevent kids from trying cigarettes or other tobacco products and to help smokers quit. The figure falls far short of the 15 percent target expenditure for such programs that was set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 13 years ago as part of the tobacco settlement.
Currently, only Alaska and North Dakota are funding smoking prevention programs at the full CDC recommended level. As the economy has worsened, many states have been using more and more of tobacco taxes and their share of settlement payments to cover huge budget gaps. As a result, the report suggested, at least four states -- Connecticut, Nevada, New Hampshire and Ohio -- and the District of Columbia have budgeted no money this year for anti-smoking programs.
The report, "A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 13 Years Later," was released Nov. 30 by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights.
The report is produced annually and is used to assess whether states are keeping their promise to use the tobacco settlement funds for prevention efforts. The settlement money is expected to total $246 billion over the first 25 years, the report noted.
"More than ever, this report shows that the states have squandered the opportunity presented by the tobacco settlement to significantly reduce tobacco use and its devastating toll on our nation," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "It's no coincidence that progress against tobacco has slowed at the same time that states have slashed tobacco prevention funds. We cannot win the fight against tobacco unless elected officials at all levels step up efforts to implement proven solutions."