Kansas ranks 39th in the nation when it comes to funding tobacco prevention programs.
A report called “Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 11 Years Later” finds that states are collecting record amounts of revenue from the tobacco industry, but are spending less of it on tobacco prevention.
Among the key findings:
• States this year will collect $25.1 billion from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend just 2.3 percent of it — $567.5 million — on tobacco prevention programs.
• In the past year, states have cut funding for tobacco prevention programs by more than 15 percent, or $103.4 million.
• Only one state, North Dakota, currently funds a tobacco prevention program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-recommended level. It is spending $9.4 million.
• 40 states are spending less than half the CDC-recommended amount. Of these, 31 states, including Kansas, are providing less than a quarter of the recommended funding.
“States like Kansas are not investing in comprehensive tobacco prevention and smoking cessation programs. We know that when states do invest in these programs lives are saved. Kids don’t start smoking and adults quit,” said Paul G. Billings, vice president of National Policy and Advocacy of the American Lung Association.
This year, Kansas will collect $170 million from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend $2.3 million or just 1.3 percent of it on tobacco prevention. The CDC recommends spending $32 million.
Meanwhile, tobacco companies spend $104 million a year to market their products in Kansas — 46 times what the state spends on tobacco prevention.
The report “A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 11 Years Later,” was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
In Kansas, 20 percent of Kansas high school students smoke, and 2,900 more children become regular smokers every year, according to the report.
Each year, tobacco claims 3,800 lives and costs the state $927 million in health care bills.
“For states not to invest, it’s sort of penny wise, pound foolish because it is much cheaper to prevent tobacco-caused disease than it is for the state to treat,” Billings said.
In Douglas County, about 18 percent of students in sixth through 12th grades smoke, according to a 2005 Youth Tobacco Survey — the most recent data available.
The Douglas County Community Health Improvement Project, commonly known as CHIP, strives to reduce the smoking rate by providing educational programs. In the past year, state funding for CHIP's Tobacco Use Prevention Program dropped 17 percent to $114,700.
Janelle Martin, executive director of CHIP, said smoking is a problem among youths, and experimentation typically begins between ages 11 and 12, but she has seen children as young as 9 pick up the habit.
CHIP offers workshops for student groups at Lawrence High School, Free State High School and Eudora High School so they can encourage youths to stop smoking.
“Hopefully, between all of us, we are getting the message across,” Martin said.