WASHINGTON – Rhode Island ranked 40th in the U.S. for funding programs that help prevent kids from smoking and help current smokers quit, according to a report released by a coalition of public health organizations.
The report – “Broken Promises to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 14 Years Later” – was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.
According to the report, Rhode Island currently spends $376,437 a year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, 2.5 percent of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and prevention’s recommended amount.
This year alone, the Ocean State will collect $185 million in revenue from the 1998 tobacco settlement and from tobacco taxes. The report states that Rhode Island only 0.2 percent of every dollar in tobacco revenue to fight tobacco use.
“The tobacco companies spend $21.2 million a year to market their products in Rhode Island. This is 56 times what the state spends on tobacco prevention,” said the report.
Although the Ocean State has implemented several effective measures to reduce tobacco use, including a statewide smoke-free workplace law and a cigarette tax of $3.50 per pack, the state still falls short in funding tobacco prevention and cessation programs.
“Rhode Island has taken several critical steps to reduce tobacco use, but the state's progress is at risk unless it invests more in preventing kids from smoking and helping smokers quit,” Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a statement. “Even in these difficult budget times, tobacco prevention is a smart investment that saves lives and saves money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs.”
According to the report, 11.4 percent of Rhode Island’s high school students smoke and 1,300 more kids become regular smokers each year. “Tobacco annually claims 1,600 lives and costs the state $506 million in health care bills.”
Nationally, only Alaska and North Dakota are currently funding tobacco prevention and cessation programs at the CDC-recommended level.