By Joshua Johnson and Lisa Aliferis
Tobacco prevention advocates are calling on California to spend more on anti-smoking programs — especially since the state already has the money for it.
A new report published Thursday titled Broken Promises to Our Children looked nationwide at how states are spending the money from the 1998 master settlement agreement with cigarette companies and from states’ tobacco taxes.
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which published the analysis, says states spend only a “minuscule portion” or tobacco revenue on cessation and prevention programs. The group estimates California will get $1.6 billion this year in tobacco revenue, but will spend just $62 million on smoking prevention and cessation efforts. Nationwide, states spend just two percent of their total tobacco revenue on prevention and cessation.
“California and other states have shown that these tobacco prevention/cessation programs more than pay for themselves,” said Danny McGoldrick, vice-president for research with the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. “When we cut them and reverse our progress in reducing smoking, we’re actually costing the state money, because we’re going to have more costs related to treating tobacco-caused disease.” His group estimates health care costs to treat tobacco-caused diseases total $9 billion in California.
In its best practices recommendations, the Centers for Disease Control says that California should spend about $440 million on cessation and prevention. By contrast, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids estimates tobacco companies spend more than $500 million in marketing in the state.
“The decision makers are the people sitting in the legislature and the governor,” McGoldrick said. “They have to decide that 36,000 people dying every year in California from tobacco-caused disease and losing 12-14 years off their lives … are worth doing more about than California has already done and is currently doing. But in order to do that, they need to hear from us — the citizens and tobacco control advocates have to let them know this is important to us.”
Sixteen percent of Californians smoked in 2011, according to the Gallup Healthways Well Being Index, the second lowest rate in the U.S. behind Utah, at 13 percent.