National Report: Kentucky Ranks 39th in Protecting Kids from Tobacco

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PRNEWSWIRE | DECEMBER 11, 2014

Kentucky ranks 39th in the country in funding programs that prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, according to a national report released today by a coalition of public health organizations.

The report challenges states to do more by shining the spotlight on Florida, which has cut its high school smoking rate to a record low 7.5 percent. The report details the lives and health care dollars each state could save if it brought its teen smoking rate down to Florida’s.

If Kentucky reduced its high school smoking rate from 17.9 percent to 7.5 percent, it would prevent 148,150 kids from becoming adult smokers, saving 52,290 lives and $2.6 billion in future health care costs. Today inKentucky, tobacco annually claims 8,900 lives and costs the state $1.9 billion in health care bills.

Other key findings for Kentucky include:

  • Kentucky spends $2.5 million per year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is 4.4 percent of the $56.4 million recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Kentucky will collect $347.3 million in revenue this year from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes but will spend only 0.7 percent of the money on tobacco prevention programs.
  • Tobacco companies spend $271.1 million per year to market their products in Kentucky – 109 times what the state spends on tobacco prevention.

Today’s report, titled “Broken Promises to Our Children: A State-by-State Look at the 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 16 Years Later,” was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.

To reduce smoking and exposure to harmful secondhand smoke, Kentucky health advocates are calling on state lawmakers to approve a comprehensive, statewide smoke-free law in early 2015.  There is strong support for the legislation among the public, business leaders and legislators.

“It’s time for Kentucky leaders to protect everyone’s right to breathe clean air and reduce tobacco’s terrible health and financial toll on the state,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Right now, Kentucky is also putting its children at risk and costing taxpayers money by failing to properly fund tobacco prevention efforts that are proven to save lives and health care dollars. We need elected leaders in Kentucky to enact a comprehensive smoke-free law and increase funding for proven tobacco prevention programs.”

Nationally, the report finds that:

  • Most states fail to adequately fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs. The states will collect $25.6 billion this year from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes but will spend only 1.9 percent of it ($490.4 million) on tobacco prevention programs.
  • States are falling woefully short of the CDC’s recommended funding levels for tobacco prevention programs. Altogether, the states budgeted just 14.8 percent of the $3.3 billion the CDC recommends. Only two states – Alaska and North Dakota – are funding tobacco prevention programs at CDC-recommended levels.

Evidence shows tobacco prevention and cessation programs work to reduce smoking, save lives and save money. One study found that during the first 10 years of its tobacco prevention program, the state ofWashington saved more than $5 in tobacco-related hospitalization costs for every $1 spent on the program.

Tobacco use is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 480,000 people and costing the nation at least $289 billion in health care bills and lost productivity each year.

The full report and state-specific information can be found at www.tobaccofreekids.org/statereport.

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