National Report: North Carolina Ranks Last in Protecting Kids from Tobacco

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- North Carolina is tied for last in the nation in funding programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, according to a national report released today by a coalition of public health organizations.

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This year, state lawmakers eliminated funding for North Carolina's tobacco prevention program, reducing funding from $17.3 million last year.  As a result, North Carolina is one of four states that have budgeted zero state funds for tobacco prevention this year.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that North Carolina provide $106.8 million a year for tobacco prevention programs.

Other key findings for North Carolina include:

  • North Carolina this year will collect $433 million in revenue from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend none of it on tobacco prevention programs.
  • North Carolina is continuing some of its tobacco prevention and cessation efforts this year with $2.7 million from a federal block grant.
  • The tobacco companies spend $321.3 million a year to market their products in North Carolina.

The annual report on states' funding of tobacco prevention programs, titled "Broken Promises to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 14 Years Later," was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights. The report assesses whether the states have kept their promise to use a significant portion of their settlement funds, as well as tobacco taxes, to reduce tobacco use.

North Carolina's tobacco prevention program has helped drive down smoking rates in the state.  From 2001 to 2011, North Carolina reduced smoking among high school students by 44 percent (from 27.8 percent to 15.5 percent who smoke).

Despite this success, state lawmakers in 2011 abolished the Health and Wellness Trust Fund, which previously received 25 percent of the state's tobacco settlement funds and provided dedicated funding for the state's tobacco prevention and cessation program.  The program was kept alive in Fiscal Year 2012 with $17.3 million in leftover trust fund dollars, but no new funding was provided this year.

"North Carolina is one of the most disappointing states in our report and has taken a giant step backward by eliminating funding for its successful tobacco prevention program," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.  "Unless state leaders act quickly to restore funding for tobacco prevention, North Carolina will pay a high price with more kids smoking, more lives lost to tobacco and higher tobacco-related health care costs.  States are being truly penny-wise and pound-foolish when they fail to properly fund tobacco prevention programs."

In North Carolina, 15.5 percent of high school students smoke, and 11,100 more kids become regular smokers each year. Tobacco annually claims 12,200 lives and costs the state $2.5 billion in health care bills.

Nationally, the report finds that most states are failing to adequately fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs. Key national findings of the report include:

  • The states this year will collect $25.7 billion from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend just 1.8 percent of it – $459.5 million – on tobacco prevention programs. This means the states are spending less than two cents of every dollar in tobacco revenue to fight tobacco use.
  • States are falling woefully short of the CDC's recommended funding levels for tobacco prevention programs.  Altogether, the states have budgeted just 12.4 percent of the $3.7 billion the CDC recommends.
  • Only two states – Alaska and North Dakota – currently fund tobacco prevention programs at the CDC-recommended level.

As the nation implements health care reform, the report warns that states are missing a golden opportunity to reduce tobacco-related health care costs, which total $96 billion a year in the U.S.  One study found that during the first 10 years of its tobacco prevention program, Washington state saved more than $5 in tobacco-related hospitalization costs for every $1 spent on the program.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., killing more than 400,000 people each year.  Nationally, 19 percent of adults and 18.1 percent of high school students smoke.

More information, including the full report and state-specific information, can be obtained at www.tobaccofreekids.org/reports/settlements.

SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids



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