The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

States Falling Behind in Obligation to Kick Teen Smoking

by Brendan Coyne

Dec. 1, 2005 – Despite increasing spending on tobacco-use prevention measures, state expenditures on efforts to prevent and diminish the use of the cancer-causing cash crop remain far below levels recommended by the federal government and health experts, according to a report released yesterday by several leading health organizations and the anti-smoking group, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The report found that tobacco companies spend $28 in marketing for every $1 states spend on prevention.

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The annual report, which the groups have issued every year since the federal government brokered the landmark 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) on behalf of 48 states, found that all but four states – Maine, Colorado, Delaware and Mississippi – are failing in their promise to spend "a significant portion" of the $246 billion deal on smoking prevention measures. Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia fund prevention programs at or below half the levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, despite record increases in taxes on the product and having received millions in settlement money, the study found.

"This report shows that the states’ efforts to protect kids from tobacco have failed to keep up with the record growth in the tobacco industry’s marketing of its deadly and addictive products," William V. Corr, Executive Director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said in a statement. "States lack excuses for their failure to protect our children. We have mountains of evidence that prevention programs work to keep kids from smoking, save lives and save money by reducing tobacco-related healthcare costs."

Taken together, states have committed $551 million to tobacco prevention for the 2006 fiscal year, a bump of $12.8 million over the previous year, but still just about a third of the $1.6 billion recommended by the CDC, the report found. Meanwhile, the states are projected to collect $21.3 billion in revenue from taxes and MSA payments this year.

"If we are to have any chance of winning this critical battle, states need to do a better job of funding programs that help reduce tobacco use and protect the health of our youth," American Cancer Society CEO John R. Seffrin said, criticizing state spending priorities. "Funding tobacco prevention programs is one of the smartest and most fiscally responsible investments state governors and legislators can make. Yet, far too many states are missing this golden opportunity not only to prevent disease and death, but to save money by lowering tobacco-related health care costs."

According to the most recent survey of youth tobacco use, the 2004 National Youth Tobacco Survey, the decline in high school and middle school tobacco use may have stalled. Earlier studies found that use of tobacco-related products among school-age children has been on the wane since 1997, according to a 2002 CDC study.

In an April statement, the CDC said: "The lack of substantial decreases in the use of almost all tobacco products among middle and high school students underscores the need to fully implement evidence-based strategies (e.g., increasing the retail price of tobacco products, implementing smoking-prevention media campaigns, and decreasing minors' access as part of comprehensive tobacco-control programs) that are effective in preventing youth tobacco use."

While there is some debate about the number of annual tobacco-related deaths, the CDC estimates that well over 400,000 people are killed by smoking alone each year.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Brendan Coyne is a contributing journalist.

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