Fifteen years after the 1998 state tobacco settlement, Georgia ranks 43rd 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.
Georgia currently spends $2.2 million a year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is 1.9 percent of the $116.5 million recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Other key findings for Georgia include:
• Georgia this year will collect $346.8 million in revenue from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend just 0.6 percent of it on tobacco prevention programs. This means Georgia is spending less than a penny of every dollar in tobacco revenue to fight tobacco use.
• The tobacco companies spend $316.9 million a year to market their products in Georgia. This is 142 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 15 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 and Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.
The report assesses whether the states have kept their promise to use a significant portion of their settlement funds – estimated to total $246 billion over the first 25 years — to fight tobacco use. The states also collect billions more each year from tobacco taxes.
In addition to its lack of funding for tobacco prevention programs, Georgia’s cigarette tax is only 37 cents per pack, which is 48th in the nation and well below the state average of $1.53 per pack.
“Georgia again is one of the most disappointing states when it comes to protecting kids from tobacco,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Georgia should raise its tobacco tax and increase funding for tobacco prevention programs that are proven to protect kids, save lives and save money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs. States are being truly penny-wise and pound-foolish when they shortchange tobacco prevention programs.”
In Georgia, 17 percent of high school students smoke, and 7,200 more kids become regular smokers each year. Tobacco annually claims 10,500 lives and costs the state $2.25 billion in health care bills.
Nationally, the report finds that most states are failing to adequately fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs. Key national findings of the report include:
• The states this year will collect $25 billion from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend just 1.9 percent of it — $481.2 million — on tobacco prevention programs. This means the states are spending less than two cents of every dollar in tobacco revenue to fight tobacco use.
• States are falling woefully short of the CDC’s recommended funding levels for tobacco prevention programs. Altogether, the states have budgeted just 13 percent of the $3.7 billion the CDC recommends.
• Only two states — Alaska and North Dakota — currently fund tobacco prevention programs at the CDC-recommended level.
There is more evidence than ever before that tobacco prevention and cessation programs work to reduce smoking, save lives and save money. Florida, which has a well-funded, sustained tobacco prevention program, reduced its high school smoking rate to just 8.6 percent in 2013, far below the national rate. One study found that during the first 10 years of its tobacco prevention program, Washington state saved more than $5 in tobacco-related hospitalization costs for every $1 spent on the program.
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.
More information, including the full report and state-specific information, can be obtained at www.tobaccofreekids.org/reports/settlements.