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Connecticut Still In Bottom Half of States On Smoking Prevention Spending

by | Dec 14, 2015 11:30am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share

Connecticut is spending $1.2 million this fiscal year on programs to help residents quit smoking, ranking 38th in the nation, according to a report released last week.

At the same time, tobacco companies spent about $80.4 million in 2012 advertising their products in Connecticut — and have averaged $107.46 million a year on advertising since 1998. Based on the 2012 figure, they spent $68 on marketing for every dollar the state spent on prevention and cessation programs, according to the report.

The report, titled “Broken Promises to our Children: A State-by-State Look at the 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 17 Years Later,” was released this week by a coalition of advocacy groups. It includes the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, and Truth Initiative.

In 1998, the country’s largest tobacco companies reached a deal with more than 40 states, including Connecticut, to settle claims the companies inappropriately marketed tobacco products. Under the historic settlement, the tobacco industry has to adhere to certain marketing standards and must pay the states about $10 billion, collectively, annually for the indefinite future.

Part of the money, under the settlement, is intended to help compensate states for the medical costs associated with treating smokers. Some is to be used to fund state’ anti-smoking efforts and advertising campaigns that discourage youths from smoking.

This year, Connecticut will get $487.2 million from the settlement and tobacco taxes, according to the report, and will spend just 0.2 percent of it on tobacco prevention programs.

The funding earmarked for such programs is less than 4 percent of the $32 million the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the state put toward anti-smoking efforts, according to the report.

The report ranked states’ spending based on the share of the CDC recommendation they have spent, not on the dollar amount.

“The tobacco companies are as relentless as ever in marketing their lethal products, so it is critical that Connecticut step up its efforts to protect our kids from tobacco addiction and help smokers quit,” Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a statement.

“We know how to win the fight against tobacco, but most states are falling woefully short,” he said. “States like Connecticut are putting their children at risk and costing taxpayers billions by refusing to fund tobacco prevention programs that are proven to save lives and money.”

Connecticut isn’t the only state to underfund prevention and cessation programs. This year, the states included in the settlement will get a total of $25.8 billion from the agreement and tobacco taxes but will spend $468 million - less than 2 percent - of it on prevention programs, the study found.

That $468 million states collectively have budgeted for programs is a small fraction of the $3.3 billion the CDC recommends, according to the study, and North Dakota is the only state funding prevention programs at CDC-recommended levels.

Like many other states, Connecticut is grappling with tough financial times and has various competing interests vying for state dollars. On Tuesday, lawmakers in a special session agreed on a 2016 state budget that included $350 million in cuts.

Over the past year, the state has cut funding for its tobacco prevention program from $3.5 million to $1.2 million, according to the report.

The report also found that 13.5 percent of high school students smoke in Connecticut, and 2,100 youths become regular smokers each year in the state. Tobacco kills 4,900 people and costs the state $2 billion in healthcare bills annually, according to the report.

Nationally, tobacco use causes more than 480,000 deaths and costs about $170 billion in health care expenses annually, according to the report.

North Dakota ranked first in the study, spending $10 million, or 102 percent of the CDC’s recommended amount, on prevention and cessation efforts this year. Alaska ranked second, spending $8.8 million, or 86 percent of the CDC’s recommendation; and Oklahoma ranked third, spending $25 million, or 59 percent of the CDC recommendation.

New Jersey ranked last, budgeting no money for prevention and cessation programs - against a CDC recommendation of $103 million. Data on Illinois and Pennsylvania were unavailable for the current fiscal year, and therefore not included.

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