Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Tobacco controls unenforced, prevention funds diverted

To be filed under "lessons learned" about funding for substance abuse prevention, here is an excerpt from a recent American Lung Association press release "Tobacco Industry Continues to Spend Billions While Public Health Shortchanged":

Follow the trail of money misused by policymakers and strategically invested by Big Tobacco in the American Lung Association's "State of Tobacco Control 2013" report released today to discover how the leading cause of preventable death is often entangled in a financial web of neglect and deceit.

The Lung Association's "State of Tobacco Control" report tracks annual progress on key tobacco control policies at the federal and state level, assigning grades based on whether laws are adequately protecting citizens from the enormous toll tobacco use takes on lives and the economy.

"We are faced with a deep-pocketed, ever-evolving tobacco industry that's determined to maintain its market share at the expense of our kids and current smokers," said Paul G. Billings, American Lung Association Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Education. "State and federal policymakers must battle a changing Big Tobacco and step up to fund programs and enact policies proven to reduce tobacco use."

The federal government's progress on tobacco control over the past several years nearly ground to a halt in 2012. Most notably, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) failed to exercise its oversight authority allowing for the proliferation of a new generation of tobacco products aimed at hooking youth smokers.

State governments continued their years of inaction by again failing to invest income from tobacco taxes and tobacco settlement payments into programs proven to keep youth off tobacco and help current smokers quit. According to the U.S. Surgeon General's report, if states begin to invest in tobacco prevention programs, youth tobacco use could be cut in half in just six years.

Smoking costs the American public almost $200 billion every year in healthcare costs and lost productivity and wages – a staggering bill that the country can ill afford.

In 2009, the Washington State Legislature diverted tobacco dedicated funds away from prevention programs and into the general fund.  State funding for tobacco prevention is now virtually non-existent. 

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