Report: State can do more to protect kids from tobacco

Published on Tuesday, December 11, 2012

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Report: State can do more to protect kids from tobacco
South Carolina ranks 32nd in the nation in funding programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, according to a national report released by a coalition of public health organizations.

South Carolina  spends $5 million a year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is 8 percent of the $62.2 million recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Other key findings for South Carolina include:

• South Carolina this year will collect $241 million in revenue from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend just 2.1 percent of it on tobacco prevention programs. This means South Carolina is spending just 2 cents of every dollar in tobacco revenue to fight tobacco use.

• The tobacco companies spend $178.9 million a year to market their products in South Carolina. This is 36 times what the state spends on tobacco prevention.

The annual report on states' funding of tobacco prevention programs, titled "Broken Promises to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 14 Years Later," was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights.

In 2010, South Carolina took an important step forward by raising the state cigarette tax and increasing funding for tobacco prevention programs from $2 million to $5 million a year.  Since then, South Carolina has maintained tobacco prevention funding at $5 million, but this amount is still less than 10 percent of the CDC's recommendation.

"South Carolina has taken positive steps in recent years to reduce tobacco use, but needs to invest more in preventing kids from smoking and helping smokers quit," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.  "Even in these difficult budget times, tobacco prevention is a smart investment for South Carolina that will save lives and save money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs."

In South Carolina, 19.1 percent of high school students smoke, and 5,900 more kids become regular smokers each year. Tobacco annually claims 6,100 lives and costs the state $1.1 billion in health care bills.

Nationally, the report finds that most states are failing to adequately fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs. Key national findings of the report include:

• The states this year will collect $25.7 billion from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend just 1.8 percent of it – $459.5 million – on tobacco prevention programs. This means the states are spending less than two cents of every dollar in tobacco revenue to fight tobacco use.

• States are falling woefully short of the CDC's recommended funding levels for tobacco prevention programs.  Altogether, the states have budgeted just 12.4 percent of the $3.7 billion the CDC recommends.

• Only two states – Alaska and North Dakota – currently fund tobacco prevention programs at the CDC-recommended level.

As the nation implements health care reform, the report warns that states are missing a golden opportunity to reduce tobacco-related health care costs, which total $96 billion a year in the U.S.  One study found that during the first 10 years of its tobacco prevention program, Washington state saved more than $5 in tobacco-related hospitalization costs for every $1 spent on the program.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., killing more than 400,000 people each year.  Nationally, 19 percent of adults and 18.1 percent of high school students smoke.


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