States have cut funding for tobacco prevention programs 12 percent this year, to the lowest level since 1999, according to a new report that a coalition of public health groups released Wednesday.
States have scaled back spending on tobacco programs as they grapple with budget deficits that have forced layoffs, furloughs and cuts for basic services.
They will collect $25.6 billion in tobacco taxes and legal settlements from the tobacco industry this fiscal year. But they will spend just 1.8 percent of that, or $456.7 million, on programs to prevent or stop tobacco use, according to the report released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Cancer Society, and several other groups.
That's about 12 percent of the $3.7 billion the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends, the report says.
"There are no easy cuts anymore. There's the old expression, tried and true, it's not fat anymore, we're talking about bone," said Debra Miller, director of health policy for the Council of State Governments. "All revenue is looked at as revenue for the highest priority programs. ... They aren't ignoring the whole idea of tobacco cessation and the public health issues, the budgets are just such a problem right now.
Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia are spending less than a quarter of the amount recommended by the CDC.
Only one state, Alaska, is meeting or exceeding its CDC recommendation for the year, spending $10.8 million this year. Connecticut, Nevada, New Hampshire and Ohio did not allocate any funding for tobacco prevention programs this fiscal year. Neither did the District of Columbia.
"At a time when they're getting as much revenue as ever ... they're spending less than ever," said Danny McGoldrick, vice president of research at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "It's really a penny-wise, pound-foolish decision because we're going to pay for it (in the long-term)."
States on average have never spent as much the CDC would like, but the total has declined dramatically in recent years, McGoldrick said. States have cut funding 36 percent in the past four years, the report says.
In contrast, tobacco companies spent $10.5 billion to market their products in 2008, the most recent year tracked by the Federal Trade Commission.
About 46 million Americans smoke, while more than 3 percent of American adults use smokeless tobacco, according to the CDC. Smoking-related health care costs $96.7 billion annually nationwide, the report says, and tobacco-related diseases are responsible for about 443,000 deaths a year in the U.S.
Tobacco companies agreed in 1998 to settle lawsuits several states brought over smoking-related health care costs by paying them about $206 billion over more than two decades. States first received full payments under the settlement in 1999.
The largest U.S. tobacco company, Altria Group Inc. _ based in Richmond, Va., and maker of Skoal smokeless tobacco and top-selling Marlboro cigarettes _ pays a majority of that. States should use more of the settlement money for youth smoking prevention and health-related initiatives, said Altria spokesman David Sutton.
"The money's there and that's one of the primary reason it was put in place was for these very type of programs," Sutton said.
Many states also have raised tobacco taxes in order to increase revenue and supplement funds provided by the tobacco industry.
Michael Felberbaum can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/MLFelberbaum
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