December 13, 2007
WASHINGTON - Alaska ranks 5th in the nation in funding programs to protect kids from tobacco, according to a national report released Wednesday by a coalition of public health organizations. Alaska currently spends $7.5 million a year on tobacco prevention programs, which is 92.5 percent of the minimum amount of $8.1 million recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Last year, Alaska ranked 10th, spending $6.2 million on tobacco prevention.
The annual report on states' funding of tobacco prevention programs, titled "A Broken Promise to Our Children," was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and American Lung Association.
The report's key findings for Alaska include:
"Alaska has made steady improvements in the fight against tobacco and is now one of only a few states that have made a solid commitment to funding programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit," said William V. Corr, Executive Director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "Tobacco prevention is a smart investment for Alaska that will reduce smoking, save lives and save money for taxpayers by reducing tobacco-related health care costs."
Nine years after the 1998 state tobacco settlement, the report finds that the states this year have increased total funding for tobacco prevention programs by 20 percent, to $717.2 million. But most states still fail to fund tobacco prevention programs at minimum levels recommended by the CDC, and altogether, the states are providing less than half what the CDC recommends. Only three states -- Maine, Delaware and Colorado -- currently fund tobacco prevention programs at CDC minimum levels.
The report warns that the nation's progress in reducing smoking is at risk unless states increase funding for programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. The United States has significantly reduced smoking among both youth and adults over the past decade, but recent surveys indicate progress has stalled. Currently, 23 percent of high school students and 20.8 percent of adults smoke in the United States.
Entering the 10th year of the tobacco settlement, public health groups are challenging states to keep the promise of the tobacco settlement and fully fund tobacco prevention programs at CDC-recommended levels.
The report found that there is more evidence than ever that tobacco prevention programs work to reduce smoking, save lives, and save money by reducing smoking-caused health costs. Maine, which ranks first among the states in funding tobacco prevention, has reduced smoking by 59 percent among high school students and 64 percent among middle school students since launching its tobacco prevention program in 1997.
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people and costing nearly $100 billion in health care bills every year. Nearly 90 percent of all smokers start at or before age 18. Every day, another 1,000 kids become regular smokers, one-third of whom will die prematurely as a result.
In Alaska, 17.8 percent of high school students smoke, and 1,200 more kids become regular smokers every year. Each year, tobacco use claims 500 lives and costs the state $169 million in health care bills.
On the Web:
"A Broken Promise to Our
(NOTE: The CDC recently updated
its recommendation for the amount each state should spend on
tobacco prevention programs, taking into account new science,
population increases, inflation and other changes since it last
issued its recommendations in 1999. In most cases, the new recommendations
are higher than current ones. Next year, this report will begin
to assess the states based on these new recommendations.)
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