This year (Fiscal Year 2011) states will collect $25.3 billion in revenue from the 1998 tobacco settlement funds and tobacco taxes. Alarmingly, though, the states will only spend two percent of that amount—$517.9 million—on programs to prevent smoking and help smokers quit. That’s the lowest amount of tobacco prevention program funding since 1999, when the states first received tobacco settlement funds, according to a report released today by a coalition of public health organizations, including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).
U.S. adult smoking rates have stalled at 20.6 percent after decades of decline. Echoing the recommendations of major public health organizations such as the Institute of Medicine, the President’s Cancer Panel and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the report recommends that states increase funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs, increase tobacco taxes and enact strong smoke-free laws that apply to all workplaces, restaurants and bars. In addition, the federal government should robustly fund and implement the national tobacco prevention strategy unveiled on November 10, 2010 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The report, titled “A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 12 Years Later,” was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association and RWJF. These organizations have issued yearly reports assessing whether the states have kept their promise to use funds from the tobacco settlements—estimated to total $246 billion over the first 25 years—to fight tobacco use. The states also collect billions more each year from tobacco taxes.
Key findings of this year’s report include:
“We know that much of what helps us live longer, healthier lives happens outside the doctor’s office,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “With progress on smoking rates stalled, it’s more important than ever for states to focus on community prevention programs and policies that work—like smoke-free restaurants and workplaces and adequate funding to prevent kids from starting and to help smokers quit."
Tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke kill more than 400,000 people in the United States each year and cost the nation more than $96 billion in health care bills. Every day, another 1,000 kids become regular smokers—one-third of them will die prematurely as a result.