States Fail to Adequately Fund Prevention Despite Their Billions in Tobacco Revenue
Tobacco companies spend $20 to market their deadly products for every $1 the states spend on programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, according to a report released today by a coalition of public health organizations. 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.
This year (fiscal year 2016), the states will collect $25.8 billion from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes. But they have budgeted less than two percent of it – $468 million – for tobacco prevention and cessation programs, according to the annual report assessing state funding of such programs.
In contrast, the major cigarette and smokeless tobacco companies spend $9.6 billion a year – more than one million dollars each hour – on marketing, according to the most recent data from the Federal Trade Commission. This amounts to 20 times what the states spend on tobacco prevention.
The tobacco companies spend more on marketing in a single day ($26.3 million) than all but three states –California, New York and Florida – spend on tobacco prevention programs in an entire year.
Tobacco use kills more than 480,000 Americans and costs the nation about $170 billion in health care spending each year. Without strong action now, 5.6 million kids alive today will die prematurely from smoking-caused disease, according to the U.S. Surgeon General.
The report – “Broken Promises to Our Children: A State-by-State Look at the 1998 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 tobacco companies are as relentless as ever in marketing their lethal products, so it is critical that the states step up their efforts to protect our kids from tobacco addiction and help smokers quit,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “We know how to win the fight against tobacco, but most states are falling woefully short. These states are putting their children at risk and costing taxpayers billions by refusing to fund tobacco prevention programs that are proven to save lives and money.”
This year’s report also found:
- The $468 million the states have budgeted for tobacco prevention amounts to just a small fraction of the $3.3 billion recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It would take less than 13 percent of total state tobacco revenues to meet the CDC’s recommendations in every state. (The $468 million does not include Illinois and Pennsylvania, which have yet to enact FY 2016 budgets and therefore have not set funding levels for their programs.)
- Only one state – North Dakota – is funding its tobacco prevention program at the CDC-recommended level. Only four other states – Alaska, Maine, Oklahoma and Wyoming – provide even half the recommended funding. New Jersey, which ranks last for the second year in a row, has allocated no state funds for tobacco prevention programs. Find out how each state ranks.
- 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).
The report also details many of the tobacco industry marketing tactics that entice kids, including:
- Widespread advertising, prime product placement and price discounts in stores, which make tobacco products appealing and affordable to kids.
- Slick 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 shows that youth use of e-cigarettes has skyrocketed, and that high school boys now smoke cigars at about the same rate as cigarettes.
Echoing the January 2014 report of the Surgeon General, today’s report calls for fully funding state tobacco prevention and cessation programs as part of a comprehensive strategy to accelerate progress in reducing tobacco use. Other recommendations include conducting sustained national media campaigns; increasing tobacco taxes; enacting comprehensive smoke-free laws; providing health insurance coverage for tobacco cessation treatments; and effective FDA regulation of tobacco products.
An emerging strategy for reducing tobacco use is to increase the legal sale age for tobacco products to 21. A March 2015 report by the prestigious Institute of Medicine concluded that raising the tobacco sales age to 21 would significantly reduce smoking among youth and young adults, save lives and improve public health.
“State leaders across the country have an obligation to spend their tobacco settlement money as intended – to invest in proven tobacco control that will save lives and carry the added benefit of reducing state health care costs,” said Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society. “We urge lawmakers to fully fund tobacco cessation and prevention programs, that combined with comprehensive smoke-free laws and increased tobacco taxes maximize our potential to reduce the needless death and suffering from tobacco use in this country.”
“Year after year, it’s the same situation – states are not using their tobacco settlement funds to help Americans quit smoking or prevent them from ever starting this dangerous habit,” said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association. “It’s high time to break this pattern of inaction. Well-funded programs in every state would go a long way in the nation’s fight against tobacco. So, once again, the American Heart Association strongly urges all state lawmakers to invest this money where it belongs – in successful tobacco prevention programs that get results.”
“States continue to spend too little on programs to prevent and reduce tobacco use, the No. 1 preventable cause of death in our country,” said Harold P. Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association. “We will never succeed in eliminating tobacco-caused death and disease unless state policymakers find the political will to fund these vital and proven-effective tobacco prevention programs.”
“Despite claims that the tobacco industry has changed its behavior as a result of the master settlement agreement and the Department of Justice RICO case, the industry still engages in nefarious tactics to make a profit by selling deadly products and to oppose sound public health laws to protect individuals from exposure to secondhand smoke, tax tobacco products, and limit where products are sold,” said Cynthia Hallett, MPH, Executive Director of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights. “And now we’re having a serious case of déjà vu with tobacco industry marketing and advertising of electronic cigarettes running amok in an unregulated market, making claims that these products are safer.”
“Over 17 years we’ve achieved truly dramatic reductions in teen smoking that are even more impressive when compared against a tobacco industry that spends nearly $10 billion marketing in the United States each year,” said Robin Koval, CEO and President of Truth Initiative. “Now, with an end to tobacco use in sight, we can’t afford to scrimp on proven strategies at the local, state or federal levels. This generation truly can be the one to end the era of deadly tobacco and ‘Finish It.'”
For more information, visit: www.tobaccofreekids.org.