South Carolina ranks 30th nationwide in funding programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, according to a report released by a coalition of public health organizations. South Carolina is spending $5 million this year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is just 9.8 percent of the $51.0 million recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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 South Carolina, 9.6 percent of high school students still smoke, and 2,800 kids become regular smokers each year. Tobacco use claims 7,200 South Carolina lives and costs the state $1.9 billion in health care bills annually.
Other key findings in the report include:
South Carolina will collect $240.5 million in revenue this year from the 1998 state tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend only 2.1 percent of the money on tobacco prevention programs.
Tobacco companies spend over $190 million each year to market their deadly and addictive products in South Carolina – 38 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.
The 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.
The report spotlights the need for stronger tobacco prevention efforts in South Carolina. In 2010, South Carolina acted to reduce tobacco use by raising its cigarette tax and increasing funding for tobacco prevention programs (from $2 million to $5 million per year). While the state has maintained annual funding at $5 million, this amount is still insufficient.
“While South Carolina has made progress in reducing smoking, it continues to fall far short in funding 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 has made in reducing smoking, it is within our reach to win the fight against tobacco and make the next generation tobacco-free. South Carolina should be doing everything it can to protect kids from tobacco.”
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.
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