Broken Promises?

Posted By JMoser on 12 Jan 2015 – 6:49pm in Biological Sciences, Medicine, Public Health, Social Sciences, Anthropology, Politics, Sociology

In a recent report by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other organizations, a summary was done outlining the results of the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. The results are discouraging. Not only are funds being directed to areas that are not helping in the fight against tobacco, but overall rates of tobacco use remain unacceptably high.

The report details that states will collect $25.6 billion in tobacco settlement money and tobacco taxes in 2015 and spend only $490.4 million of it—1.9 percent— on programs to prevent children from smoking and to help smokers quit. Tobacco is the number one cause of preventable death in this country and we are spending less than 2 cents of our revenues from that deadly source on preventing it. Death sticks, as I call cigarettes and remind my patients daily, are still consumed by nearly 20 percent of all adults.

The report outlines many other unacceptable facts. First, the CDC recommends 13.3 percent of tobacco revenues go toward tobacco prevention programs. Only two states, North Dakota and Alaska, meet that requirement and only five other states meet only half that requirement. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia provide less than twenty percent of the funding. Second, tobacco companies spend $8.8 billion on marketing death sticks. These companies spend eighteen times the money to market their deadly product as do the states spend fighting them. Third, the recently released January 2014 report by the Surgeon General, The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress shows even greater health liabilities than previously thought. Smoking still kills 480,000 Americans annually—one in every five deaths. Without any further interventions, 5.6 million children will eventually die from smoking-related diseases.

On the positive side, this report outlines some progress. Smoking rates have been cut from 42.4 percent of all adults in 1965 to 17.8 percent in 2013. Since peaking in 1997, the high school smoking rates have been cut from 36.4 percent to 15.7 percent. Finally, programs such as Florida’s SWAT program (Students Working Against Tobacco), have cut rates even further. In that state, high school smoking has been cut to 7.5 percent.

We need to continue putting pressure on tobacco companies by persuading consumers that smoking is no longer desirable or acceptable. We can no longer accept preventable deaths from tobacco use. Tobacco companies will not voluntarily stop their sales; we must stop them. Tobacco use must be eliminated from our culture entirely.

Biological Sciences, Medicine, Public Health, Social Sciences, Anthropology, Politics, Sociology
Tobacco-Free, SWAT

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