WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Washington ranks 46th in the country 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. The state's once-vaunted tobacco prevention program has been reduced to a shadow of its former self.
Washington is spending just $640,500 this year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is barely one percent of the $63.6 million recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is the lowest amount Washington has spent on tobacco prevention programs since the 1998 state tobacco settlement, down from a peak of $27.2 million as recently as 2009.
In contrast, tobacco companies spend an estimated $92.9 million to market their deadly and addictive products in Washington each year. That means tobacco companies spend $145 to promote tobacco use for every $1 Washington spends to prevent it. This giant gap is undermining efforts to save lives and health care dollars by reducing tobacco use, the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States, the report warns.
Washington has been a leader in fighting tobacco with a high cigarette tax ($3.025 per pack) and a strong, statewide smoke-free law. However, Washington has decimated its tobacco prevention program despite its role in dramatically reducing smoking and evidence that the program saved $5 in tobacco-related hospitalization costs for every $1 spent.
In addition to restoring funding for tobacco prevention, health advocates are urging Washington lawmakers to increase the tobacco sale age to 21, a move that would reduce smoking and save lives.
"It is inexcusable that Washington has virtually eliminated its once exemplary tobacco prevention program given its proven effectiveness in reducing smoking, saving lives and saving money," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "The tobacco companies are as relentless as ever in marketing their lethal products, so it is critical that Washington renew its efforts to protect our kids from tobacco addiction and help smokers quit. Washington can become a leader again by raising the tobacco sale age to 21 and restoring funding for tobacco prevention."
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 have 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.
Other key findings for Washington include:
- Washington will collect $582 million this year from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend only one percent of it on tobacco prevention programs.
- In Washington, 7.9 percent of high school students smoke, and 3,900 kids become regular smokers each year. Tobacco claims 8,300 lives and costs the state $2.8 billion in health care bills annually.
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 less than two 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