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Mass. 37th in keeping kids from smoking

WASHINGTON DC -- Massachusetts ranks 37th in the nation in funding programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, according to a national report released today by a coalition of public health organizations.
Massachusetts currently spends $4.5 million a year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is 5 percent of the $90 million recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Other key findings for Massachusetts include:
  • Massachusetts this year will collect $821 million from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend just 0.5 percent of it on tobacco prevention programs.
  • The tobacco companies spend $194.6 million a year to market their products in Massachusetts. This is 43 times what the state spends on tobacco prevention.
The annual report on states' funding of tobacco prevention programs, titled "A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 12 Years Later," was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Massachusetts currently spends $4.5 million a year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is 5 percent of the $90 million recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Massachusetts once had one of the nation's best-funded and most successful tobacco prevention programs, but has drastically cut funding in recent years. To continue reducing tobacco use, health advocates are calling on Massachusetts leaders to raise and equalize tobacco tax rates on all tobacco products, not just cigarettes, and use some of the revenue to increase funding for tobacco prevention.
"Massachusetts has made tremendous progress in the fight against tobacco, but these gains could stop and even reverse unless state leaders increase funding for tobacco prevention programs," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "To further reduce youth smoking and help more smokers quit, Massachusetts should raise the tobacco tax and increase funding for tobacco prevention. Even in these difficult budget times, tobacco prevention is a smart investment that saves lives and saves money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs."
In Massachusetts, 16 percent of high school students smoke, and 7,200 more kids become regular smokers every year. Each year, tobacco claims 9,000 lives and costs the state $3.5 billion in health care bills.
Nationally, the report finds that most states are failing to adequately fund programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. Altogether, the states have cut funding for these programs to the lowest level since 1999, when they first started receiving tobacco settlement payments. Key national findings of the report include:
  • The states this year will collect $25.3 billion from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend just two percent of it $517.9 million on tobacco prevention programs.
  • States have cut funding for tobacco prevention programs by nine percent ($51.4 million) in the past year and by 28 percent ($199.3 million) in the past three years.
  • Only two states Alaska and North Dakota currently fund tobacco prevention programs at the CDC-recommended level.
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, but 20.6 percent of adults and 19.5 percent of high school students still smoke.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., killing more than 400,000 people and costing $96 billion in health care bills each year.
More information, including the full report and state-specific information, can be obtained at www.tobaccofreekids.org/reports/settlements.

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