State is 5th in protecting keiki from tobacco

WASHINGTON — Hawai‘i ranks fifth nationally in funding programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, according to a national report released last week by a coalition of public health organizations.

Hawai‘i currently spends $8.9 million a year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

The amount is 58.8 percent of the $15.2 million recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other key findings for Hawai‘i include:

• This year, Hawai‘i will collect $186 million in revenue from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend just 4.8 percent of it on tobacco prevention programs, meaning the state spends less than five cents of every dollar in tobacco revenue to fight tobacco use.

• Tobacco companies spend $24.7 million a year to market their products in Hawai‘i. This is three times what the state spends on tobacco prevention.

The annual report on states’ funding of tobacco prevention programs, “Broken Promises to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 14 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.

Hawai‘i has been a leader in the fight against tobacco with a high cigarette tax, a strong smoke-free workplace law and its tobacco prevention and cessation program. However, the state cut funding this year for tobacco prevention by 17 percent.

Hawai‘i has one of the lowest high school smoking rates in the nation at 10.1 percent, compared to 18.1 percent who smoke nationally.

“Hawai‘i has been a leader in the fight against tobacco, but needs to sustain its commitment to tobacco prevention in order to continue making progress,” said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Even in these difficult budget times, tobacco prevention is a smart investment for Hawai‘i that protects kids, saves lives and saves money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs.”

In Hawai‘i, more than 1,500 kids become regular smokers each year.

Tobacco annually claims 1,100 lives and costs the state $336 million in health care bills.

Nationally, the report finds that most states are failing to adequately fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

Key national findings include:

• This year, states will collect $25.7 billion from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend just 1.8 percent of it — $459.5 million — on tobacco prevention programs.

This means the states are spending less than two cents of every dollar in tobacco revenue to fight tobacco use.

• States are falling woefully short of the CDC’s recommended funding levels for tobacco prevention programs.  

Altogether, states have budgeted just 12.4 percent of the $3.7 billion the CDC recommends.

• Only Alaska and North Dakota currently fund tobacco prevention programs at the CDC-recommended level.

As the nation implements health care reform, the report warns states are missing a golden opportunity to reduce tobacco-related health care costs, which total $96 billion a year in America.  

One study found that during the first 10 years of its tobacco prevention program, Washington saved more than $5 in tobacco-related hospitalization costs for every $1 spent on the program.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., killing more than 400,000 people each year.

More information can be found at online.


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