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States challenged to follow Florida’s example in cutting youth smoking to record lows

The states are missing an opportunity to save millions of lives and over $120 billion in because they continue to shortchange proven programs that prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, according to a report released by a coalition of public health organizations.

This year (fiscal year 2015), the states will collect $25.6 billion from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes. But they will spend less than two percent of it – $490.4 million – on and cessation programs, according to the annual report assessing state funding of such programs.

This year’s report challenges the states to do more by shining the spotlight on Florida, which has cut high school smoking to just 7.5 percent – one of the lowest rates recorded by any state. Among its efforts to reduce tobacco use, Florida has a long-running and well-funded .

The report details the lives and health care dollars each state, and the nation as a whole, could save by reducing youth smoking to Florida’s low rate. If the national high school smoking rate declined from the current 15.7 percent to 7.5 percent, the report finds it would:

  • Prevent 7 million kids from becoming adult smokers
  • Save 2.3 million kids from premature, smoking-caused deaths
  • Save $122 billion in future, tobacco-related health care costs.

Tobacco use is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States, killing 480,000 Americans each year. A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study released Wednesday showed that smoking costs the nation about $170 billion in annual health care spending, which is more than previously estimated. Without strong action now, 5.6 million kids alive today will die prematurely from smoking-caused disease, according to the U.S. Surgeon General.

The report, titled “Broken Promises to Our Children: A State-by-State Look at the 1998 Tobacco Settlement 16 Years Later,” was released by 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.

“Most states are literally sacrificing the health of their children and costing taxpayers billions by refusing to properly fund tobacco prevention efforts and ignoring the mountain of evidence that these programs save lives and money,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Florida’s remarkable progress shows we can create a tobacco-free generation – but only if elected leaders wake up and aggressively implement proven solutions. That’s why we’re issuing this ‘Florida Challenge’ to spur every state to increase funding for , a crucial step toward our tobacco-free vision.”

Other key findings of the report include:

  • The $490.4 million the states have budgeted for tobacco prevention amounts to just 14.8 percent of the $3.3 billion recommended by the CDC. It would take less than 13 percent of total state tobacco revenues to meet the CDC’s recommendations in every state.
  • Only two states – Alaska and North Dakota – are funding tobacco prevention programs at the CDC-recommended level when both state and federal funds are included. Only five other states – Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Oklahoma and Wyoming – provide even half the recommended funding. New Jersey, which ranks last, is the only state that has allocated no state funds for tobacco prevention programs.
  • Tobacco companies spend $18 to market tobacco products for every $1 the states spend to reduce tobacco use.
  • States have slightly increased tobacco prevention funding from the $481.2 allocated last year. But current funding is still down nearly a third from the $717.2 million spent in fiscal 2008.