The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has admonished South Carolina, Texas and Kentucky for failing to provide enough money from tobacco tax revenue for tobacco prevention efforts.
The three were among 13 states that spent less than 10 percent of the CDC-recommended level of funding for tobacco prevention, according to the federal health agency’s latest report on State Tobacco Control Program spending. The latest data, released Thursday, is from fiscal year 2011.
The CDC recommended in 2007 that states should invest a combined $3.7 billion annually on tobacco prevention efforts to help with education efforts and to combat tobacco-related illnesses. It said each state’s contribution should be based on population and tobacco habits.
But states contributed less than 3 percent of their revenue from tobacco taxes and court settlements involving tobacco. They spent a combined total of $658 million in 2011, while the tobacco industry spent $8.8 billion on advertising and promotions, according to the CDC.
Many states don’t have requirements about how tobacco-related revenue must be spent, and much of the income is used for “general purposes,” according to the report.
There also are no federal requirements that dictate how state cigarette tax money is spent, said Brian Sigritz, director of state fiscal studies at the National Association of State Budget Officers. While some have portions of the revenue set aside for anti-tobacco programs, others can spend it however they please, he said.
Even as cigarette smoking has declined, cigar and smokeless tobacco use has not changed, but use of new tobacco products, like e-cigarettes and hookah, a water pipe used to smoke flavored tobacco, is growing.
“If current rates continue, 5.6 million Americans younger than 18 years of age who are alive today are projected to die prematurely from smoking-related disease,” the report stated.
If people are going to continue to use harmful tobacco, states should funnel the money from tobacco taxes into reducing the number of new smokers, said John Lindsay, vice president of development at D.A.R.E., a group that helps students address issues such as drugs and violence.
“The least we can do is take that tobacco tax and focus it on prevention efforts,” Lindsay said.
In 2011, South Carolina spent $4.04 million on tobacco prevention. The CDC recommended that it spend $62.2 million. South Carolina law dictates that part of the cigarette tax revenue goes toward tobacco prevention programs, according to the American Lung Association.
Texas spent $18.67 million. The CDC recommended $266.3 million.
Kentucky spent $4.33 million. The CDC recommended $57.2 million.
California contributed nearly $95 million, the most of any state toward tobacco prevention. Even so, its recommended level was $442 million. Only Alaska and North Dakota funded programs at the CDC-recommended levels, $10.7 million and $9.3 million, respectively.
Thomas Carr, director of National Policy with the American Lung Association, said states like Florida, California and Washington have programs that are actually working well.
The California Tobacco Control Program led to $55 in healthcare savings for every $1 spent on tobacco prevention from 1989 to 2008, a 2013 Public Library of Science study found.
“One of the things about tobacco cessation programs is that if you can sustain the same level year after year, they actually become more effective over time,” Carr said.