WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Rhode Island ranks 40th nationwide in funding programs that prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, according to a report released today by leading public health organizations. Rhode Island is spending just $375,622 this year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is 2.9 percent of the $12.8 million recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
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 Rhode Island, 4.8 percent of high school students smoke, and 300 kids become regular smokers each year. Tobacco use claims 1,800 Rhode Island lives and costs the state $640 million in health care bills annually.
Other key findings in the report include:
- Rhode Island will collect $195.5 million in revenue this year from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend only 0.2 percent of the money on tobacco prevention programs.
- Tobacco companies spend $26 million each year to market their deadly and addictive products in Rhode Island – more than 69 times what the state spends on tobacco prevention. Nationwide, tobacco companies spend $8.9 billion a year on marketing – that's $1 million every 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.
Rhode Island's high cigarette tax ($4.25 per pack) and strong, statewide smoke-free workplace law have helped drive the high school smoking rate down to 4.8 percent, one of the lowest in the country. To continue the progress, health advocates are urging Rhode Island leaders to increase funding for its tobacco prevention programs and to raise the legal sale age of tobacco products to 21.
"Rhode Island has made significant progress in reducing tobacco use and can achieve even more by increasing its investment in programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "We can win the fight against tobacco and make the next generation tobacco-free, but Rhode Island needs to continue doing its part to help achieve these goals. Raising the state's tobacco age to 21 would be an excellent step forward."
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.
The report and state-specific information can be found at tfk.org/statereport.
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SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids