National report ranks Tennessee 34th in protecting children from tobacco
Tennessee ranks 34th in the nation in funding programs to protect children from tobacco, according to a national report released by a coalition of public health organizations.
Tennessee currently spends $10 million a year on tobacco prevention programs, which is 31 percent of the minimum amount of $32.2 million recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last year, Tennessee ranked last in the nation, spending nothing on tobacco prevention.
The annual report on states’ funding of tobacco prevention programs, titled “A Broken Promise to Our Children,” was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and American Lung Association.
The report’s key findings for Tennessee include:
• The tobacco companies spend more than $406 million a year on marketing in Tennessee. This is more than 40 times what the state spends on tobacco prevention.
• Tennessee this year will collect $511.5 million from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend just 2 percent of it on tobacco prevention.
Earlier this year, the state Legislature approved a plan proposed by Gov. Phil Bredesen to allocate $10 million for programs to keep children from smoking and help smokers quit, a historic move for a state that has no history of spending money on tobacco prevention. Bredesen also proposed and the Legislature approved a new smoke-free workplace law and a 42-cent increase in the state cigarette tax.
“Thanks to Governor Bredesen and the Legislature, Tennessee is one of the most improved states in the nation in fighting tobacco use,” said William V. Corr, executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Despite this progress, Tennessee still spends less than a third of the CDC’s recommended minimum for tobacco prevention. It’s critical that Tennessee build on its progress because tobacco companies are spending huge sums to market their deadly and addictive products. Tobacco prevention is an important investment that protects kids, saves lives and saves money for taxpayers by reducing tobacco-related health care costs.”
Nine years after the 1998 state tobacco settlement, the report finds that the states this year have increased total funding for tobacco prevention programs by 20 percent, to $717.2 million. But most states still fail to fund tobacco prevention programs at minimum levels recommended by the CDC, and altogether, the states are providing less than half what the CDC recommends. Only three states — Maine, Delaware and Colorado — currently fund tobacco prevention programs at CDC minimum levels.
The report warns that the nation’s progress in reducing smoking is at risk unless states increase funding for programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. The United States has significantly reduced smoking among both youth and adults over the past decade, but recent surveys indicate progress has stalled. Currently, 23 percent of high school students and 20.8 percent of adults smoke in the United States.
Entering the 10th year of the tobacco settlement, public health groups are challenging states to keep the promise of the tobacco settlement and fully fund tobacco prevention programs at CDC-recommended levels.
The key national findings of this year’s report include:
• Only 20 states — including Maine, Delaware and Colorado — are funding tobacco prevention programs at even half the minimum levels recommended by the CDC.
• 30 states and the District of Columbia are spending less than half the CDC’s minimum amount. Connecticut is the only state that provided no funding this year.
• Total state funding for tobacco prevention, $717.2 million, amounts to less than 3 percent of the record $25 billion the states will collect this year from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes. It would take just 6.4 percent of this tobacco revenue to fund tobacco prevention programs in every state at CDC-recommended levels.
The report found that there is more evidence than ever that tobacco prevention programs work to reduce smoking, save lives, and save money by reducing smoking-caused health costs. Maine, which ranks first among the states in funding tobacco prevention, has reduced smoking by 59 percent among high school students and 64 percent among middle school students since launching its tobacco prevention program in 1997.
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people and costing nearly $100 billion in health care bills every year. Nearly 90 percent of all smokers start at or before age 18. Every day, another 1,000 kids become regular smokers, one-third of whom will die prematurely as a result.
In Tennessee, 26.3 percent of high school students smoke, and 9,400 more children become regular smokers every year. Each year, tobacco use claims 9,500 lives and costs the state $2.2 billion in health care bills.
More information, including the full report and state-specific information, can be obtained at http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/reports/settlements.
Note: The CDC recently updated its recommendation for the amount each state should spend on tobacco prevention programs, taking into account new science, population increases, inflation and other changes since it last issued its recommendations in 1999. In most cases, the new recommendations are higher than current ones. Next year, this report will begin to assess the states based on these new recommendations.
Published in The Messenger 12.26.07