WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As Pennsylvania leaders work to resolve a budget impasse, a new report released today by a coalition of public health organizations urges the state to significantly raise the tobacco tax and increase funding for programs that prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit.
According to the report, tobacco companies spend $469.5 million each year to market their deadly and addictive products in Pennsylvania. However, because of the budget stalemate, Pennsylvania has yet to allocate any funding this year for tobacco prevention and cessation programs that are proven to save lives and health care dollars.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that Pennsylvania spend $140 million annually on tobacco prevention and cessation programs. Last year, Pennsylvania provided just $13.8 million for tobacco prevention programs, and Governor Tom Wolf's budget for the current year proposed a little more than $13.1 million.
In addition to increasing funding for tobacco prevention, health advocates are also calling on Pennsylvania leaders to increase the state cigarette tax by $1.60 per pack and establish a parallel tax on other tobacco products. Higher tobacco taxes are proven effective at reducing smoking and other tobacco use, especially among kids, while also raising revenue and reducing tobacco-related health care costs.
During the 160 days since the Legislature was supposed to approve the state budget, 18,300 Pennsylvania kids smoked their first cigarette and 9,600 Pennsylvania adults died from smoking.
"The tobacco companies are as relentless as ever in marketing their lethal products, so it is critical that Pennsylvania step up its efforts to protect kids from tobacco addiction and help smokers quit," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "Pennsylvania will realize significant health and financial benefits if state leaders approve a large increase in the tobacco tax and provide additional funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs. Unless Pennsylvania acts, and acts soon, the state will fall further behind in the fight against Big Tobacco."
In Pennsylvania, 18.4 percent of high school students smoke, and 9,200 kids become regular smokers each year. Tobacco claims 22,000 lives and costs the state $6.4 billion in health care bills annually.
The report, titled "Broken Promises to Our Children: A State-by-State Look at the 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 17 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, Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights and Truth Initiative.
The report assesses whether the states kept their promise to use a significant portion of their settlement funds – estimated to total $246 billion over the first 25 years – to fight tobacco use. The states also collect billions of dollars more each year from tobacco taxes.
Nationally, the report finds that:
- Most states fail to sufficiently fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs. The states will collect $25.8 billion this year from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend only 1.8 percent of it ($468 million) on tobacco prevention programs.
- The $468 million the states have budgeted for tobacco prevention is a small fraction of the $3.3 billion the CDC recommends. Only one state – North Dakota – is funding tobacco prevention programs at CDC-recommended levels.
- States with well-funded, sustained tobacco prevention programs continue to deliver impressive results. Florida, with one of the longest-running programs, reduced its high school smoking rate to just 6.9 percent this year, one of the lowest rates ever reported by any state and a 75 percent decline since 1998. North Dakota, which ranks first for the third year in a row in this report, cut smoking among high school students by nearly half from 2009 to 2015 (from 22.4 percent to 11.7 percent).
Insufficient prevention funding makes it difficult for states to combat the pervasive marketing of Big Tobacco. Nationwide, tobacco companies spend $9.6 billion a year – more than one million dollars every hour – to market their products, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Industry tactics that entice kids include:
- Widespread advertising, prime product placement and price discounts in stores, which make tobacco products appealing and affordable to kids.
- Ads in magazines with large youth readership, such as Sports Illustrated and Rolling Stone.
- Candy- and fruit-flavored tobacco products such as small cigars and electronic cigarettes. E-cigarette companies have drastically ramped up their marketing efforts in recent years as well. Recent data show that youth use of e-cigarettes has skyrocketed, and that high school boys now smoke cigars at about the same rate as cigarettes.
Tobacco use kills more than 480,000 Americans and costs the nation about $170 billion in health care expenses each year.
The full report and state-specific information can be found at www.tobaccofreekids.org/reports/settlements.
SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids