Spending on tobacco prevention, cessation found lacking

Painless Stop Smoking

A new national report concludes that states aren’t spending enough on programs to discourage young people from starting tobacco or to help older tobacco users to quit. (Photo by Eanlami on Unsplash)

While Oklahoma earns higher marks than other states in the way it spends money received from settlements of lawsuits against tobacco companies, the state and nation as a whole should be doing better, according to a new national report.

The report – “Broken Promises to Our Children: A State-by-State Look at the 1998 Tobacco Settlement” – was released this week by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights and Truth Initiative. The organizations have issued reports annually since the 1998 landmark legal settlement between 46 states and major tobacco companies that – along with individual settlements with four other states – required the companies to pay more than $246 billion over time as compensation for tobacco-related health care costs.

The report asserts that many states “shortchange” programs meant to prevent young people from experimenting with tobacco and others designed to help older users quit. Only a handful of states, including Oklahoma, have increased funding, but even they should probably dedicate more, it said.

During fiscal year 2023, states will collect some $26.7 billion either through tobacco settlement funds or taxes on tobacco. But in all they’ll spend just 2.7% – about $733.1 million – on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, the report states.

“This is a $14.5 million increase from last year, but still less than a quarter – 22.2% – of the total funding recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” it states.

Further, the report points out that the overall increase in spending this year can be attributed to five states, Oklahoma, Oregon, Maine, Connecticut and Maryland.

Only two states, Oregon and Maine, currently fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs at or above CDC-recommended levels. Only seven, including Oklahoma, provide for half or more of recommended spending.

The report ranked Oklahoma at No. 5 for spending. The state has committed to 78% of levels of spending recommended by the CDC for prevention and cessation programs.

The low funding levels in most states are even more alarming when compared to the $9.1 billion the tobacco industry spends annually to market their products in the United States, the report adds.

According to the report, while the U.S. has made progress in reducing cigarette smoking and other tobacco use, tobacco use still kills more than 480,000 people and is responsible for more than $241 billion in health care costs across the U.S. each year. Latest government survey results show that 3.08 million U.S. middle and high school students self-reported use of a tobacco product within a month of being surveyed, including 2.55 million who used e-cigarettes.

Among adults, the CDC has reported that 47.1 million U.S. adults, some 19%, identified as tobacco users in 2020.

“To continue driving down tobacco use, address health disparities and stop tobacco companies from addicting another generation of kids, states must step up their funding of tobacco prevention and cessation programs,” Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids President Matthew L. Myers said. “Our progress shows that we know how to win the fight against tobacco. But policymakers need to be as aggressive in implementing proven tobacco prevention measures as the tobacco industry continues to be in promoting its deadly and addictive products.”

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