Anti-smoking program funds getting smoked out

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Even though smoking rates have remained stagnant since 2007 in U.S. adults, many states are cutting funding for smoking cessation programs, The Wall Street Journal reports. In an effort to balance looming budget deficits, Washington state, for example, is reducing funding for its tobacco control program to just $1.4 million in 2012 from the $27 million allocated in 2007.

ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross is disappointed, but not surprised, that states have cut funding “despite the fact that they’re still raking in revenue in the form of settlement money from tobacco companies. At the time the Master Settlement Agreement was hammered out between 46 states and the tobacco industry in 1998, the state Attorneys General were quite sincere when they assured everyone that the moneys extracted from Big Tobacco would be used to improve public health by being plowed back into anti-smoking education and related efforts. However, very little of that money actually goes there. It has basically disappeared into general state operating budgets.”

The Wall Street Journal today also presents a graph suggesting that smoking rates decrease as anti-smoking education funding increases, while funding cuts have lead to the current plateau in smoking rates.

ACSH’s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan isn’t completely convinced that there’s a positive correlation between funding and smoking rates, but she’s seen “cause-and-effect relationships made based on weaker evidence than this. If state governments really want to improve public health, rather than taxing sugary beverages or selling cheese, they should devote more time, attention, and money towards educating people, especially teens, on the health consequences of smoking.”