Kentucky spends less than a penny of its tobacco-settlement money on prevention programs; few states do very much

By Molly Burchett
Kentucky Health News

A new report says that 15 years after the 1998 state tobacco settlement, Kentucky ranks 38th in the nation in funding tobacco prevention and cessation programs, only 3.7 percent of the amount recommended by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC recommends that the state spend $57.2 million a year on programs to help people quit smoking, but Kentucky is only planning to spend $2.1 million in 2014 on them, says the new annual report from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Last year’s report ranked Kentucky 37th as it planned to spend the same amount.

The goal of these programs is to help kids and adults quit smoking. Of the $320.3 million in revenue the state will get from the settlement in the current fiscal year, Kentucky will spend just 0.7 percent of it on tobacco-prevention programs, or less than a penny of every dollar it collects in revenue, the campaign says in a news release and a chart.

Kentucky has the highest smoking rates in the country, a an estimated 28.3 percent of adults and 24.1 percent of high-school students smoke. Each year, tobacco claims 7,800 lives and costs the state $1.5 billion in health care bills, about $487 million of which are covered by the federal-state Medicaid program, and each Kentucky household pays an estimated $582 per year in taxes to cover smoking-caused government expenditures, the release says.

To reduce smoking and its negative consequences, health advocates are calling on Kentucky leaders to pass a comprehensive, statewide ban on smoking in workplaces and enclosed public spaces. Some advocates also call for an increase in the state’s tobacco tax. The report says Kentucky has the 40th lowest cigarette tax in the country at 60 cents per pack, 93 cents below the state average. It was doubled a few years ago.

“Tobacco takes a terrible health and economic toll on Kentucky, but state leaders can do something about it by increasing funding for tobacco prevention and passing a comprehensive, statewide smoke-free law,” said Matthew L. Myers, president of the campaign. “The evidence is clear that reducing tobacco use not only saves lives, it also saves money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs. It’s one of the smartest investments Kentucky can make.”

Nationally, the report finds that most states are failing to adequately fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs. States will collect $25 billion from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes in 2014, but will spend just 1.9 percent of it on prevention programs.

States are spending only 13 percent of the CDC’s recommended $3.7 billion in funding for these prevention programs, and only two states – Alaska and North Dakota – spend the recommended amount.

Green = State spends 50 percent or more than recommended amount; Orange= 25-45 percent of recommended amount; Yellow = 10-24 percent of recommended amount; Gray = less than 10 percent of recommended amount 

“Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in the U.S., killing more than 400,000 people and costing $96 billion in health care bills each year. Nationally, about 18 percent of adults and 18.1 percent of high school students smoke.” says the report.

Since the states settled their lawsuits against the tobacco companies in November 1998, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has issued annual reports to hold states accountable for settlement spending, an amount estimated to be $246 billion over the first 25 years.

The annual report on states’ funding of tobacco prevention programs, titled “A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 15 Years Later,” was released by the campaign, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Lung Association, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.

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