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National Report Ranks West Virginia 21st in Protecting Kids from Tobacco

Wednesday, December 9, 2009 Alcohol & Drug Abuse News J E 4
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 9 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- West Virginia ranks 21st 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.

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

West Virginia currently spends $6.9 million a year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is 24.7 percent of the $27.8 million recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Last year, West Virginia ranked 25th, spending $6.7 million on tobacco prevention.

Other key findings for West Virginia include:

  • West Virginia this year will collect $176 million from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend just 3.9 percent of it on tobacco prevention programs.
  • The tobacco companies spend $140.4 million a year to market their products in West Virginia. This is 20 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.

"West Virginia has made a modest investment in programs to protect kids from tobacco, but is still spending less than a quarter of what the CDC recommends," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.  "To continue making progress, it is critical that West Virginia's leaders increase funding for tobacco prevention to build on the solid progress being made by the Division of Tobacco Prevention. The RAZE program and their other youth tobacco prevention programs have been successful, but any reduction in funding could reverse that progress. 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 West Virginia, 27.6 percent of high school students smoke, and 2,400 more kids become regular smokers every year. Each year, tobacco claims 3,800 lives and costs the state $690 million 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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