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National Report Ranks North Carolina 24th in Protecting Kids from Tobacco

Wednesday, December 9, 2009 Press Release J E 4
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State Praised for Enacting Strong Smoke-Free Workplace Law

WASHINGTON, Dec. 9 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- North Carolina ranks 24th 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.  Health advocates praised North Carolina's leaders for enacting a new law this year requiring smoke-free restaurants and bars and urged the state to take additional action to reduce tobacco's deadly toll, including raising the state tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products and increasing funding for tobacco prevention programs.

(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20080918/CFTFKLOGO)

North Carolina currently spends $20 million a year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is 18.7 percent of the $106.8 million recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Last year, North Carolina ranked 32nd, spending $18.5 million on tobacco prevention.

Other key findings for North Carolina include:

  • North Carolina this year will collect $428 million from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend just 4.7 percent of it on tobacco prevention programs.
  • The tobacco companies spend $535.9 million a year to market their products in North Carolina. This is 27 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 11 Years Later," was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

This year, North Carolina took historic action to reduce the harm caused by tobacco use and secondhand smoke by enacting a strong law requiring all restaurants and bars to be smoke-free effective January 2, 2010.  North Carolina joins 25 other states and the District of Columbia in enacting such a law.  The new law will protect all workers and the public from secondhand smoke, which is a proven cause of lung cancer, heart disease and other serious illnesses.

However, North Carolina continues to lag in implementing other effective measures to reduce tobacco use, including inadequate funding for tobacco prevention programs and a low cigarette tax of just 45 cents per pack, compared to the national average of $1.34 per pack.

"We applaud Governor Perdue and the legislators who supported the new smoke-free law and delivered a truly historic victory for the health of all North Carolinians," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.  "North Carolina can further reduce tobacco's devastating toll by raising tobacco taxes and increasing funding for tobacco prevention programs.  Even in these difficult budget times, tobacco prevention is a smart investment that reduces smoking, saves lives and saves money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs."

In North Carolina, 19 percent of high school students smoke, and 10,400 more kids become regular smokers every year. Each year, tobacco claims 12,200 lives and costs the state $2.5 billion in health care bills.

Eleven years after the 1998 state tobacco settlement, the new report finds that the states this year are collecting record amounts of revenue from the tobacco industry, but are spending less of it on tobacco prevention. Key national findings of the report include:

  • The states this year will collect $25.1 billion from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend just 2.3 percent of it – $567.5 million – on tobacco prevention programs.  It would take less than 15 percent of their tobacco revenue to fund tobacco prevention programs in every state at CDC-recommended levels.
  • In the past year, states have cut funding for tobacco prevention programs by more than 15 percent, or $103.4 million.
  • Only one state – North Dakota – currently funds a tobacco prevention program at the CDC-recommended level.
  • Only nine other states fund prevention programs at even half the CDC-recommended amount, while 31 states and DC are providing less than a quarter of the recommended funding.

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 the CDC's most recent survey showed that smoking declines among adults have stalled.  Currently 20 percent of high school students and 20.6 percent of adults 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.  Every day, another 1,000 kids become regular smokers – one-third of them will die prematurely as a result.

More information, including the full report and state-specific information, can be obtained at www.tobaccofreekids.org/reports/settlements.

SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

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