Maine ranks 7th in the nation in funding programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, according to a national report released Thursday by a coalition of public health organizations.
Maine currently spends $9.9 million a year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is 53.5 percent of the $18.5 million recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other key findings for Maine include:
Maine this year will collect $195 million from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend just 5.1 percent of it on tobacco prevention programs.The tobacco companies spend $59 million a year to market their products in Maine. This is six 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, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the Cancer Action Network, the American Lung Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Maine has been a national leader in fighting tobacco, but the state has reduced funding for tobacco prevention programs in recent years. To continue reducing smoking, Maine must raise its tobacco tax and increase funding for tobacco prevention, according to the report.
“Maine has been a leader in the fight against tobacco, but now spends barely half of what the CDC recommends for tobacco prevention programs,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “To continue reducing smoking among Maine’s kids, state leaders must protect the tobacco prevention program from further cuts. Instead, they should raise the tobacco tax and use some of the revenue to 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 Maine, 18.1 percent of high school students smoke, and 1,600 more kids become regular smokers every year. Each year, tobacco claims 2,200 lives and costs the state $602 million 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:
Collectively, 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.