WASHINGTON – Rhode Island ranked 42nd 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.
According to the report, titled “A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 15 Years Later,” Rhode Island currently spends $388,027 a year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is 2.6 percent of the $15.2 million recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and 1.8 percent of the $23.1 million tobacco companies spend each year to market their products in Rhode Island.
In last year’s “A Broken Promise to Our Children” report, Rhode Island ranked 40th.
“Rhode Island has taken important steps to reduce tobacco use, but the state must increase its investment in preventing kids from smoking and helping smokers quit,” said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Tobacco prevention is a smart investment that saves lives and saves money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs. States are being truly penny-wise and pound-foolish when they short-change tobacco prevention programs.”
The report highlighted several strong points of Rhode Island’s anti-tobacco initiatives, including a statewide smoke-free workplace law and a cigarette tax of $3.50 per pack, the third-highest cigarette tax in the country.
However, the report also pointed to $187.4 million in state revenue this year from tobacco taxes and from the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement between states and the tobacco industry, only 0.2 percent of which will be used to fund tobacco-prevention programs.
“This means Rhode Island is spending less than a penny of every dollar in tobacco revenue to fight tobacco use,” the report said.
In Rhode Island, 11.4 percent of high school students smoke, and 900 children and young adults under the age of 18 become regular smokers every year, the report said. Tobacco annually claims 1,600 lives and costs the state $506 million in health care bills.
Only two states nationwide – Alaska and North Dakota – meet currently the CDC’s recommended funding for tobacco-prevention programs. Altogether, the 50 U.S. states have budgeted $481.2 million for tobacco prevention, 13 percent of the $3.7 billion the CDC recommends. The states collectively take in $25 billion in tobacco revenue each year.
Massachusetts spends $4 million each year on tobacco prevention, or 4.4 percent of the $90 million recommended by the CDC, and ranked 37th in the report. This year, Massachusetts raised the cigarette tax by $1 per pack, as well as the tax on other tobacco products, but did not increase tobacco-prevention funding.
In addition to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the public health organizations releasing the report included the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Lung Association, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.