WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Alaska again ranks 2nd nationwide in funding programs that prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, according to a report released today by leading public health organizations. Alaska is spending $9.5 million this year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is 93 percent of the $10.2 million recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids logo. (PRNewsFoto/Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids)

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 Alaska, 11.1 percent of high school students smoke, and 300 kids become regular smokers each year. Tobacco use claims 600 Alaska lives and costs the state $438 million in health care bills annually.

Other key findings in the report include:

  • Alaska will collect $86.8 million in revenue this year from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes and will spend 10.9 percent of the money on tobacco prevention programs.
  • Tobacco companies spend $17.7 million each year to market their deadly and addictive products in Alaska – nearly double what the state spends on tobacco prevention. Nationwide, tobacco companies spend $8.9 billion a year on marketing – that’s $1 million every hour.

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.

Alaska consistently ranks high in funding tobacco prevention programs. As a result, since 2003 Alaska has cut its high school smoking rate by 42 percent, from 19.2 percent to 11.1 percent in 2015. Strong funding of the state’s tobacco prevention programs must continue to keep the progress going. Health advocates are also pushing for a comprehensive statewide smoke-free law to protect everyone’s right to breathe clean air.

Alaska has made tremendous progress in reducing smoking thanks, in part, to its well-funded tobacco prevention and cessation program,” 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 Alaska needs to continue doing its part to achieve these goals.”

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 other state – California – provides 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.

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SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids