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Anti-Tobacco Programs Cut Teen Smoking Rates

But states aren't spending the recommended levels on such campaigns, study says

FRIDAY, Jan. 28, 2005 (HealthDayNews) -- Teen smoking rates could be cut by up to 14 percent if states followed federal recommendations for funding anti-smoking programs, a new study finds.

But, while states are flush with cash from a 1998 settlement with the tobacco companies, as well as from taxes on cigarettes, only 2.7 percent of those monies are spent to discourage smoking. That's far short of the 8 percent recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the report.

"States really have the opportunity to save millions of lives in the long run if they follow the Centers of Disease Control's recommendations for spending on smoking-control programs," said study author John Tauras an assistant professor of economics at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

The findings appear in the February issue of The American Journal of Public Health.

When the tobacco companies settled their lawsuits with the states and began payment of what will total $246 billion over 25 years, state legislatures vowed that some of the monies would be set aside for smoking-cessation programs, Tauras said. But as budgets have grown tight, less and less money has gone into anti-smoking initiatives.

"There has been a 27 percent decline from 2001," he said, when $861.9 million was spent by the states to combat smoking. This year's projected state spending totals $538 million, less than a third of the $1.6 billion the CDC recommends be spent each year to effectively reduce smoking rates.

"If states had spent just the minimum amount recommended by the CDC, youth smoking nationally would have been between 3 and 14 percent lower than was observed during the 10-year period that we examined," Tauras said.

The reduced spending is worrisome, given the strong evidence that well-funded anti-smoking programs work, Tauras said. California, for instance, launched a stop-smoking initiative in 1988 with money from a 25 cent-per-pack hike on cigarettes. The result: Cigarette sales have fallen by almost 50 percent, compared to 20 percent for the rest of the country. And teen smoking fell by 43 percent between 1995 and 1999, Tauras said.

"Further, we are just starting to see the consequences of not smoking in California," he said, with significant declines in rates of stroke and heart disease that seem to be associated with the state's tobacco-control program.

Michael Cummings is an epidemiologist at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y., who studies the reasons why teens smoke. He reviewed the data from the study before it was published.

"This study says that anti-smoking programs are a good investment and provides a gauge that shows they do work. Government needs to invest resources more than they are doing," he said.

For the study, Tauras and his colleagues matched state spending on tobacco control with data on smoking among eighth, 10th and 12th graders. The information was collected between 1991 and 2000 by the federally funded University of Michigan Monitoring the Future Study.

After adjusting the data for factors such as cigarette price, youth access, clean indoor air laws, and socioeconomic status, the researchers found that higher per capita tobacco control expenditures nationally were associated with fewer teen smokers. And those who continued to smoke smoked less, the study found.

Tauras said the findings pinpoint the clear link between money spent on tobacco-control programs and reduced smoking rates across the country. Previous research had been done on a state-by-state basis, and looked at smoking trends without isolating the amounts of money spent, he said.

The study also noted that marketing expenditures for the five major U.S. cigarette companies in 2001, the latest statistics available, were $11.2 billion. That was an increase of 66.6 percent from 1998 levels, and more than 13 times the total spent by states on tobacco-control programs.

More information

The National Library of Medicine offers more on anti-smoking campaigns.

SOURCES: John Taurus, Ph.D., assistant professor, economics, University of Illinois at Chicago; Michael Cummings, Ph.D., M.P.H., Department of Cancer Prevention, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, N.Y.; February 2005 American Journal of Public Health
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