Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids: States Slash Tobacco Control Spending Yet Again

Nov 30, 2011, 7:46 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

danny_ctfk Danny McGoldrick, Center for Tobacco-Free Kids

A new report, “A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 13 Years Later,”on annual state use of tobacco company settlement funds shows another plummet in spending on tobacco control. This year’s report, released by a coalition of groups including the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, shows that states have slashed funding for programs to reduce tobacco use by 12 percent in the past year and by 36 percent over the past four years.

“Those cuts threaten the nation’s progress against tobacco," says Danny McGoldrick, Vice President for Research at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

According to the report, in fiscal year 2012, states will collect a near-record $25.6 billion in revenue from the 1998 state tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend only 1.8 percent of it—$456.7 million—on programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. Both the total amounts states are spending on tobacco prevention programs and the percentage of tobacco revenue spent on these programs are the lowest since 1999, when the states first received significant tobacco settlement funds.

>>Read more on the value of investing in prevention.

NewPublicHealth spoke with Danny McGoldrick about the new report.

NewPublicHealth: What are the major findings in the new report?

Danny McGoldrick: Our annual report on how states are doing funding tobacco prevention with their tobacco settlement dollars doesn’t paint a very pretty picture this year. At a time when states are bringing in as much revenue as ever from their tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, they’re spending less than ever on proven programs that we know prevent kids from starting to smoke and help smokers quit. And when we don’t fund these programs or when we cut funding as we have over the past several years, what that means is that we are going to have more kids starting to smoke and fewer adults quitting, which obviously leads to more disease and deaths from tobacco and more health care costs, which we’re all going to pay for.

NPH: What specific impact does reduced state spending on tobacco control have on smoking cessation efforts in the U.S.?

Danny McGoldrick: We know from the science there is a dose response relationship between what we put into these programs and what we get out of them. When we invest in tobacco prevention and cessation, we reduce smoking among both kids and adults and when we cut funding, we move in the other direction—to the detriment of the public’s health and the budgets.

NPH: Why does the state tobacco funding continually decrease? Do some policymakers think the tobacco control problems in the U.S. are over?

Danny McGoldrick: Well obviously the budget situation that states find themselves in is often used as the excuse for not funding these programs. But the states will take in over $25.6 billion dollars and it would take only about 15 percent of that for every state to meet the levels of CDC-recommended funding, so the money is there and still leaves money to fund admittedly important public health programs beyond tobacco control.

Both the total amounts states are spending on tobacco prevention programs and the percentage of tobacco revenue spent on these programs are the lowest since 1999, when the states first received significant tobacco settlement funds. With nearly 20 percent of Americans still smoking, continued progress against tobacco usethe nation’s number one cause of preventable deathis at risk unless states increase funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs. States need to increase tobacco taxes and, those that haven’t done so yet, need to enact strong smoke-free laws that apply to all workplaces, restaurants and bars.

So the money is there. It’s really a short-sighted approach to cut programs that are reducing healthcare costs, when it’s healthcare costs that are behind so many budget problems. If we really want to solve our budget problems, one of the best ways to do that is to reduce tobacco use.

NPH: In a time when budgets are stretched, why is it so important to continue to invest in tobacco control?

Danny McGoldrick: We know that we can help budgets by investing in tobacco control and reducing overall health care costs. Tobacco use kills more than 400,000 people in the United States each year and costs the nation $96 billion in healthcare bills. Every day, another 1,000 kids become regular smokers—one-third of them will die prematurely as a result. We have the money from tobacco taxes and tobacco settlement funds and we need to spend it on proven prevention and cessation efforts.

NPH: What’s the danger if tobacco manufacturers prevail in their suit over the graphic warnings on cigarette packages and in advertising?

Danny McGoldrick: The warnings help to change the image of smoking. The tobacco companies know that so they’re suing. We’re confident that the law will ultimately be upheld, and we need the warning labels and the prevention and cessation programs, not one or the other.

NPH: What actions are needed to shore up tobacco control and prevention and what will the Center for Tobacco-Free Kids be doing to support those efforts?

Danny McGoldrick: We like to talk about the trifecta—raising and spending tobacco taxes and tobacco settlement funds, passing smoke-free laws and funding tobacco prevention and cessation programs. Polling shows voters support spending settlement funds, prevention programs and smoke-free laws.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.