WASHINGTON, Dec. 9, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Fifteen years after the 1998 state tobacco settlement, West Virginia ranks 20th in the nation 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.
West Virginia currently spends $5.3 million a year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is 18.9 percent of the $27.8 million recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Other key findings for West Virginia include:
West Virginia this year will collect $165.1 million in revenue from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend just 3.2 percent of it on tobacco prevention programs. This means West Virginia is spending less than 4 cents of every dollar in tobacco revenue to fight tobacco use.
The tobacco companies spend $120.4 million a year to market their products in West Virginia. This is 23 times what the state spends on tobacco prevention.
The annual report on states' funding of tobacco prevention programs, titled "A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 15 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 and Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights.
West Virginia has the second highest adult smoking rate in the nation at 28.2 percent. In addition, 19.1 percent of West Virginia high school students smoke, and 1,700 more kids become regular smokers each year. Tobacco annually claims 3,800 lives and costs the state $690 million in health care bills.
To address this serious problem, health advocates are urging state leaders to significantly increase the cigarette tax and provide more funding for tobacco prevention.
"With its high smoking rate, it is disappointing that West Virginia is not making a greater investment in programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "Tobacco prevention is a smart investment that saves lives and saves money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs. States are being truly penny-wise and pound-foolish when they shortchange tobacco prevention programs."
Nationally, the report finds that most states are failing to adequately fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs. Key national findings of the report include:
The states this year will collect $25 billion from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend just 1.9 percent of it – $481.2 million – on tobacco prevention programs. This means the states are spending less than two cents of every dollar in tobacco revenue to fight tobacco use.
States are falling woefully short of the CDC's recommended funding levels for tobacco prevention programs. Altogether, the states have budgeted just 13 percent of the $3.7 billion the CDC recommends.
Only two states – Alaska and North Dakota – currently fund tobacco prevention programs at the CDC-recommended level.
There is more evidence than ever before that tobacco prevention and cessation programs work to reduce smoking, save lives and save money. Florida, which has a well-funded, sustained tobacco prevention program, reduced its high school smoking rate to just 8.6 percent in 2013, far below the national rate. One study found that during the first 10 years of its tobacco prevention program, Washington state saved more than $5 in tobacco-related hospitalization costs for every $1 spent on the program.
Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in the U.S., killing more than 400,000 people and costing $96 billion in health care bills each year. Nationally, about 18 percent of adults and 18.1 percent of high school students smoke.