Funding for smoking prevention programs in the US had to be cut down because of the recession, and this could inhibit efforts needed to stop Americans from smoking.
"The states have cut their tobacco prevention funding to the lowest level since 1999," Peter Fisher, vice president of the Washington-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), told AFP.
US states have allocated 517 million dollars for tobacco prevention and cessation programs in the 2011 fiscal year, the CTFK says.
That's down from 569 million dollars a year earlier and 28 percent less than was allocated in 2008, according to CTFK, which is preparing a report due out next week on anti-smoking efforts.
Much of the funding for states' smoking cessation and prevention programs comes from a 1998 legal settlement under which several of the biggest US tobacco companies agreed to pay some 246 billion dollars to the states over 25 years, starting in 2000.
Another substantial chunk of funding comes from the billions of dollars the states collect each year by taxing tobacco products.
The states don't have to spend all of the money they receive under the settlement for tobacco-related programs, or to attack the public health problems posed by tobacco use in the United States.
In a report issued in late 2009 by CTFK, the group found that states collected record amounts of tobacco revenue but spent less of it on programs to prevent children from smoking and to help smokers quit.
"Given the difficult financial situation they find themselves in, it's understandable the states want to cut funding," said Fisher.
"But in reality, cutting these programs is penny-wise and pound foolish, because these programs, by reducing smoking, save money over the long term."
A study published in September by the American Lung Association (ALA) found that for every dollar spent to help people stop smoking, states could expect to get 1.26 dollars back.
"States have to put a little bit of money up front but they'll save in the long term and sometimes in the short term, too," Jennifer Singleterry, manager of cessation programs at ALA told AFP.
Smoking is the number one preventable cause of illness and death in the United States, claiming some 443,000 lives a year, according to the ALA.
Surveys show that 70 percent of American tobacco users want to quit, the ALA said.