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California ranked 25th in protecting kids from tobacco

Posted: December 9, 2009 2:01 p.m.
Updated: December 10, 2009 1:55 p.m.
 

WASHINGTON - California ranks 25th 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.

California currently spends $79 million a year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is 17.9 percent of the $441.9 million recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Last year, California ranked 31st, spending $78.1 million on tobacco prevention.

Other key findings for California include:

  • California this year will collect $1.75 billion from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend just 4.5 percent of it on tobacco prevention programs.
  • The tobacco companies spend $819.5 million a year to market their products in California. This is 10 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 11 Years Later," was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

California has one of the longest-running and most successful tobacco prevention programs in the country, but funding for the program was cut significantly in 2002 and has yet to be restored. In addition, California has not increased the state cigarette tax since 1999 and now has the 32nd lowest tax at 87 cents per pack. Increasing the cigarette tax is a proven way to reduce smoking.

"California has long been a national leader in fighting tobacco, but the state has fallen behind both in its cigarette tax rate and in its funding of tobacco prevention and cessation programs," said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "To continue reducing tobacco's devastating toll, California should raise its cigarette tax and increase funding for tobacco prevention. As California has proven, tobacco prevention is a smart investment that reduces smoking, saves lives and saves money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs."

In California, 15.4 percent of high school students smoke, and 32,000 more kids become regular smokers every year. Each year, tobacco claims 36,600 lives and costs the state $9.1 billion in health care bills.

Eleven years after the 1998 state tobacco settlement, the new report finds that the states this year are collecting record amounts of revenue from the tobacco industry, but are spending less of it on tobacco prevention. Key national findings of the report include:

  • The states this year will collect $25.1 billion from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend just 2.3 percent of it - $567.5 million - on tobacco prevention programs. It would take less than 15 percent of their tobacco revenue to fund tobacco prevention programs in every state at CDC recommended levels.
  • In the past year, states have cut funding for tobacco prevention programs by 15.4 percent, or $103.4 million.
  • Only one state - North Dakota - currently funds a tobacco prevention program at the CDC-recommended level.
  • Only nine other states fund prevention programs at even half the CDC-recommended amount.
  • 40 states and the District of Columbia are spending less than half the CDC-recommended amount. Of these, 31 states and DC are providing less than a quarter of the recommended funding.

The report warns that the nation's progress in reducing smoking is at risk unless states increase funding for programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. The United States has significantly reduced smoking among both youth and adults, but the CDC's most recent survey showed that smoking declines among adults have stalled. Currently, 20 percent of high school students and 20.6 percent of adults smoke.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., killing more than 400,000 people and costing $96 billion in health care bills each year. Every day, another 1,000 kids become regular smokers - one-third of them will die prematurely as a result.

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