Vermont ranks 9th in protecting children from tobacco

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Vermont ranks 9th in protecting children from tobacco

Thu, 12/14/2017 - 10:21am -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine Vermont ranks 9th nationwide in funding programs that prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, according to a report released by leading public health organizations. Vermont is spending $3.6 million this year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is still just 42.4 percent of the $8.4 million recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Vermont ranked 10th in 2016 and 10th in 2015. It's ranked as low as 8th (2009) and as high as 11th (2013).

The report – "Broken Promises to Our Children: A State-by-State Look at the 1998 Tobacco Settlement 19 Years Later" – was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights and Truth Initiative.

The report challenges states to do more to fight tobacco use – the nation's leading cause of preventable death – and make the next generation tobacco-free. In Vermont, 10.8 percent of high school students smoke, and 200 kids become regular smokers each year. Tobacco use claims 1,000 Vermont lives and costs the state $348 million in health care bills annually.

Other key findings in the report include:

  • Vermont will collect $106.1 million in revenue this year from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend only 3.4 percent of the money on tobacco prevention programs. 
     
  • Tobacco companies spend $17 million each year to market their deadly and addictive products in Vermont – more than 4 times what the state spends on tobacco prevention. Nationwide, tobacco companies spend $8.9 billion a year on marketing – that's $1 million every hour.

Vermont has the sixth highest state cigarette tax in the country ($3.08 per pack), a comprehensive smoke-free law and effective tobacco prevention and cessation programs, but it still provides less than half of the CDC-recommended funding for such programs. Vermont reduced the state's high school smoking rate by more than two-thirds since 1999 (from 33.4 percent to 10.8 percent). In addition to increasing funding for tobacco prevention, health advocates are urging Vermont leaders to increase the state's tobacco age to 21.

"Vermont has made good progress in reducing tobacco use, but can achieve even more by increasing its investment in programs that prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "We can win the fight against tobacco and make the next generation tobacco-free, but Vermont needs to keep doing its part to help achieve these goals. Raising the state's tobacco age to 21 would be an excellent step."

The U.S. has reduced smoking to record lows – 15.1 percent among adults and 8 percent among high school students. But tobacco use still kills more than 480,000 Americans and costs the nation about $170 billion in health care bills each year.

Today's report also highlights large disparities in who smokes and who suffers from tobacco-related diseases in the United States. Smoking rates are especially high in a swath of 12 states in the Midwest and South, an area called "Tobacco Nation" in a recent Truth Initiative report. Nationwide, smoking rates are highest among people who live below the poverty level and have less education, American Indians/Alaska Natives, LGBT Americans, those who are uninsured or on Medicaid, and those with mental illness. These differences are in large part due to the tobacco industry's targeting of vulnerable populations through advertising, price discounting and other marketing strategies.

By funding tobacco prevention and cessation programs at the CDC's recommended levels, states can reduce tobacco use among all Americans. But most states are falling far short:

  • The states will collect $27.5 billion this year from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend less than 3 percent of it ($721.6 million) on tobacco prevention programs. 
     
  • The $721.6 million that the states have budgeted for tobacco prevention is a small fraction of the $3.3 billion the CDC recommends. Not a single state funds tobacco prevention programs at CDC-recommended levels, and only two states – California and Alaska – provide more than 90 percent of the recommended funding. 
     
  • States with well-funded, sustained tobacco prevention programs have seen remarkable progress. Florida, with one of the longest-running programs, has reduced its high school smoking rate to 5.2 percent, one of the lowest rates ever reported by any state.

The report and state-specific information can be found at tfk.org/statereport.

SOURCE WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids