WASHINGTON, Dec. 14, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Connecticut is tied for last nationwide in funding programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, according to a report released today by a coalition of public health organizations. Connecticut is one of two states, along with New Jersey, that have budgeted zero state funds this year for tobacco prevention and cessation programs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends Connecticut spend $32 million on tobacco prevention programs.
The report challenges states to do more to fight tobacco use – the nation's No. 1 cause of preventable death – and help make the next generation tobacco-free. In Connecticut, 10.3 percent of high school students still smoke, and 1,500 kids become regular smokers each year. Tobacco use claims 4,900 Connecticut lives and costs the state $2 billion in health care bills annually.
Other key findings in the report include:
- Connecticut will collect $519.7 million in revenue this year from the 1998 state tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend none of it on tobacco prevention programs.
- Connecticut has a long history of underfunding tobacco prevention programs. But in recent years, it has done even worse, cutting funding from $6 million in fiscal year 2013 to $1.2 million in fiscal 2016 and to zero this year.
- Tobacco companies spend over $73 million each year to market their deadly and addictive products in Connecticut. Nationwide, tobacco companies spend $9.1 billion a year on marketing – more than $1 million every hour.
Today's report, titled "Broken Promises to Our Children: A State-by-State Look at the 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 18 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.
With the second highest state tobacco tax ($3.90), Connecticut has taken strong steps to reduce tobacco use. However, by eliminating funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs, the state risks losing the gains it has made. In addition to increasing funding for tobacco prevention, health advocates are urging Connecticut leaders to increase the state's tobacco sale age to 21.
"Connecticut is putting children's health at risk and costing taxpayers money by failing to fund tobacco prevention programs that save lives and health care dollars," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "Because of the tremendous progress our country, it is within our reach to win the fight against tobacco and make the next generation tobacco-free. Connecticut should be doing everything it can to protect kids from tobacco, including boosting funding for tobacco prevention and raising the tobacco age to 21."
Nationwide, the U.S. has cut smoking rates to record lows – 15.1 percent among adults and 10.8 percent among high school students in 2015. If recent progress in reducing adult smoking continues, the U.S. could eliminate smoking by around 2035, according to a recent analysis in The New England Journal of Medicine.
By funding tobacco prevention and cessation programs at the CDC's recommended levels, the states can help achieve this goal. But today's report finds most states are falling far short:
- The states will collect $26.6 billion this year from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend less than 2 percent of it ($491.6 million) on tobacco prevention programs.
- The $491.6 million that the states have budgeted for tobacco prevention is a small fraction of the $3.3 billion the CDC recommends. Only two states – North Dakota and Alaska – fund tobacco prevention programs at CDC-recommended levels.
- States with well-funded, sustained tobacco prevention programs have seen remarkable progress. Florida, with one of the longest-running programs, reduced its high school smoking rate to 5.2 percent this year, one of the lowest rates ever reported by any state. One study found that during the first 10 years of its tobacco prevention program, the state of Washington saved more than $5 in health care costs for every $1 spent on the program.
Each year in the U.S., tobacco use kills more than 480,000 people and costs the nation at least $170 billion in health care expenses.
The report and state-specific information can be found at tfk.org/statereport.
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SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids