Utah ranks 11th nationwide in funding programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, according to a report by a coalition of public health organizations.
Utah is spending $7.5 million this year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is just 38.9 percent of the $19.3 million recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The report challenges states to do more to fight tobacco use – the nation’s No. 1 cause of preventable death – and help make the next generation tobacco-free. In Utah, 4.4 percent of high school students still smoke, and 1,000 kids become regular smokers each year. Tobacco use claims 1,300 Utah lives and costs the state over $540 million in health care bills annually.
Other key findings in the report include:
Utah will collect $150.9 million in revenue this year from the 1998 state tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend only 5 percent of the money on tobacco prevention programs.
Tobacco companies spend $38 million each year to market their deadly and addictive products in Utah – 5 times what the state spends on tobacco prevention. Nationwide, tobacco companies spend $9.1 billion a year on marketing – more than $1 million every hour.
Utah has implemented several effective measures to reduce tobacco use, including its tobacco prevention program, a cigarette tax of $1.70 per pack and a strong, statewide smoke-free law. As a result, Utah has the lowest high school smoking rate in the country at just 4.4 percent.
“Utah has made great strides in reducing tobacco use, but can do even better by increasing funding for tobacco prevention programs that save lives and health care dollars,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Because of the tremendous progress our country – and states likes Utah – have made in reducing smoking, it is within our reach to win the fight against tobacco and make the next generation tobacco-free. Utah needs to keep doing everything it can to protect kids from tobacco.”
Today’s report, titled “Broken Promises to Our Children: A State-by-State Look at the 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 18 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, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights and Truth Initiative.
Nationwide, the U.S. has cut smoking rates to record lows – 15.1 percent among adults and 10.8 percent among high school students in 2015. If recent progress in reducing adult smoking continues, the U.S. could eliminate smoking by around 2035, according to a recent analysis in The New England Journal of Medicine.
By funding tobacco prevention and cessation programs at the CDC’s recommended levels, the states can help achieve this goal. But today’s report finds most states are falling far short:
The states will collect $26.6 billion this year from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend less than 2 percent of it ($491.6 million) on tobacco prevention programs.
The $491.6 million that the states have budgeted for tobacco prevention is a small fraction of the $3.3 billion the CDC recommends. Only two states – North Dakota and Alaska – fund tobacco prevention programs at CDC-recommended levels.
States with well-funded, sustained tobacco prevention programs have seen remarkable progress. Florida, with one of the longest-running programs, reduced its high school smoking rate to 5.2 percent this year, one of the lowest rates ever reported by any state. One study found that during the first 10 years of its tobacco prevention program, the state of Washington saved more than $5 in health care costs for every $1 spent on the program.
Each year in the U.S., tobacco use kills more than 480,000 people and costs the nation at least $170 billion in health care expenses.