A report from a coalition of public health groups finds Nebraska is still getting tens of millions of dollars from the legal settlement with tobacco companies, but is spending less and less on smoking prevention and cessation programs.
Danny McGoldrick is vice president of research for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. He says key elements of the landmark 1998 settlement are being ignored in the Husker State.
“Nebraska ranks 23th in terms of funding tobacco prevention and cessation,” McGoldrick says. “They’re spending less than 20% of what the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends for these programs. Every state in the country is taking in hundreds of millions of dollars from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes and we need to keep the promise of that settlement and devote this money to tobacco prevention and cessation.”
The coalition, which also includes the American Heart Association, says Nebraska is spending just over four-million dollars a year on smoking prevention and cessation programs, but the CDC says that figure should be closer to 22-million, as part of the settlement agreement. McGoldrick says Nebraska isn’t breaking any laws by not spending more money on prevention and cessation, but the state is going against what was agreed upon.
“The settlements really left it to our state legislatures and governors to appropriate the money,” McGoldrick says. “There were a lot of promises made and unfortunately, the promises haven’t been kept when it comes to using those resources to fund programs that we know will work if we just put the resources to the interventions that are proven to be effective in reducing smoking among kids and adults.”
The report finds about 18-percent of adults polled in Nebraska are smokers, while 22-percent of Nebraska high school students polled say they smoke, a number that hasn’t changed much in a few years.
“Youth smoking rates have leveled out,” McGoldrick says. “After years of coming down, they were skyrocketing before the settlement and then some states invested some money in tobacco prevention programs and prices went up as the companies raised prices to pay for the settlement. In the last few years, our progress has leveled out. Nationally, adult smoking actually had a slight uptick in 2008.”
He says tobacco use is the number-one cause of preventable death in the U-S, killing more than 400-thousand Americans every year and costing our nation nearly 100-billion in health care bills. For more details, visit: www.tobaccofreekids.org