An annual report from a coalition of health care groups claims Nebraska is shortchanging programs to help prevent people from taking up smoking and helping them to quit.
John Schachter, spokesman for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, says Nebraska is falling far short.
“When it comes to spending on tobacco prevention programs, Nebraska is spending only 12.4% of what the Centers for Disease Control recommends,” Schachter says. “The state is spending $2.6 million a year on tobacco prevention, the CDC recommends it spend more along the lines of $20-million.”
Nationwide, tobacco companies spend more than $9 billion dollars a year to market their products, which doesn’t include another $100 million to market e-cigarettes.
By underfunding prevention and cessation programs, Schachter says Nebraska is missing a golden opportunity to save lives and cut tobacco-related health care costs.
“What’s even more distressing is that the state is collecting over $100 million in tobacco revenue from the settlement and tobacco taxes, so it’s spending barely two-and-a-half percent of that money on prevention programs,” Schachter says. “When it comes to the CDC rankings, Nebraska’s right in the middle at 25th, so it gets a failing grade along with most of the other states.”
Studies find Nebraska could save five-dollars in tobacco-related medical costs for every dollar spent on tobacco prevention and cessation programs.
About 13% of Nebraska youth smoke along with 17% of adults, both of which are above the national average. One way to bring the numbers down is to raise the cost of cigarettes.
“Nebraska’s tax on cigarettes is very low,” he says. “It’s at 64-cents per pack, so that’s more than a dollar less than the national average of $1.69 per pack. We know that if the state increased it by at least a dollar, you would see huge decreases in smoking, especially among youth, you’d also raise millions of dollars for the state budget, you’d reduce health care costs.”
Of all cancer deaths in Nebraska, 27% of them are attributable to smoking. Schachter says tobacco use is the number-one cause of preventable death in Nebraska and nationwide.