WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- After ranking first for four straight years, North Dakota has fallen to 3rd nationwide in funding programs that prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, according to a report released today by leading public health organizations. In the past year, North Dakota has taken big steps backward in the fight against tobacco. The state cut funding for its successful tobacco prevention and cessation programs by 46 percent – from $9.9 million to $5.3 million – and eliminated its dedicated tobacco prevention and control agency, BreatheND.
As a result, North Dakota now spends just 54 percent of the $9.8 million recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for its tobacco prevention programs. For the past four years, the state has provided approximately the CDC-recommended amount. While North Dakota still ranks 3rd in this report, this is reflection of the fact that other states are doing even worse.
North Dakota had been funding its tobacco prevention program at the CDC-recommended level since 2010 as a result of a voter-approved ballot measure. These efforts have been highly successful, helping reduce smoking among high school students by nearly half between 2009 and 2015, from 22.4 percent to 11.7 percent.
"It makes no sense for North Dakota to slash an initiative that has been so successful at preventing kids from smoking and starting down a path that so often ends in serious diseases and premature death," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "Unless North Dakota quickly restores funding for its tobacco prevention programs, the state will pay a high price with more kids using tobacco, more lives lost and higher tobacco-related health care costs. We can win the fight against tobacco and make the next generation tobacco-free, but North Dakota must continue to do its part to help achieve these goals."
The report challenges states to do more to fight tobacco use – the nation's leading cause of preventable death – and make the next generation tobacco-free. In North Dakota, 11.7 percent of high school students smoke, and 300 kids become regular smokers each year. Tobacco use claims 1,000 North Dakota lives and costs the state $326 million in health care bills annually.
Other key findings in the report include:
North Dakota will collect $54.4 million in revenue this year from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend only 9.7 percent of the money on tobacco prevention programs.
Tobacco companies spend $37.6 million each year to market their deadly and addictive products in North Dakota – more than 7.1 times what the state spends on tobacco prevention. Nationwide, tobacco companies spend $8.9 billion a year on marketing – that's $1 millionevery hour.
The report – "Broken Promises to Our Children: A State-by-State Look at the 1998 Tobacco Settlement 19 Years Later" – was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights and Truth Initiative.
The U.S. has reduced smoking to record lows – 15.1 percent among adults and 8 percent among high school students. But tobacco use still kills more than 480,000 Americans and costs the nation about $170 billion in health care bills each year.
Today's report also highlights large disparities in who smokes and who suffers from tobacco-related diseases in the United States. Smoking rates are especially high in a swath of 12 states in the Midwest and South, an area called "Tobacco Nation" in a recent Truth Initiative report. Nationwide, smoking rates are highest among people who live below the poverty level and have less education, American Indians/Alaska Natives, LGBT Americans, those who are uninsured or on Medicaid, and those with mental illness. These differences are in large part due to the tobacco industry's targeting of vulnerable populations through advertising, price discounting and other marketing strategies.
By funding tobacco prevention and cessation programs at the CDC's recommended levels, states can reduce tobacco use among all Americans. But most states are falling far short:
The states will collect $27.5 billion this year from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend less than 3 percent of it ($721.6 million) on tobacco prevention programs.
The $721.6 million that the states have budgeted for tobacco prevention is a small fraction of the $3.3 billion the CDC recommends. Not a single state funds tobacco prevention programs at CDC-recommended levels, and only two states – California and Alaska – provide more than 90 percent of the recommended funding.
States with well-funded, sustained tobacco prevention programs have seen remarkable progress. Florida, with one of the longest-running programs, has reduced its high school smoking rate to 5.2 percent, one of the lowest rates ever reported by any state.