It’s been 17 years since the tobacco industry and most of the states entered into the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, providing financial provisions of over $206 billion for the first 25 years of the settlement. Current estimates put that amount at $246 billion today, but while this money was supposed to be used “to attack the enormous public health problems caused by tobacco use in the United States,” tobacco prevention and cessation programs are seeing little in the way of funding. States will collect $25.8 billion during Fiscal Year 2016, but “only 1.8 percent of it – $468 million” – will be spent for what it was intended. According to the new Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids “Broken Promises to Our Children,” released December 8, 2015, states are spending $1 to reduce tobacco use compared to the $20 tobacco companies spend for marketing their products. The latest report places Florida in 15th place for 2016, a repeat of 2015.
In 2006 “Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment requiring the state to spend 15% of its tobacco settlement funds on tobacco prevention.” While the state is spending $67.7 million for tobacco prevention, that number is only 34.9% of what the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends, which is $194.2 million. To put those numbers in perspective, it is estimated the tobacco industry spent $585.8 million in marketing in our state giving them an 8.7 to 1 ratio of tobacco marketing to tobacco prevention.
Smoking may be down in our state with high school smoking at 6.9% and adult smoking at 16.8%, but we still lose about 88 people a day to smoking-related illnesses, or about 32,300 a year. Annual health care costs directly caused by smoking is enormous at $8.64 billion. Each Florida household is paying $791 in state and federal tax burdens from smoking-caused government expenditures.
Finally, it all comes down to education. Although Florida has “one of the longest-running tobacco prevention programs” in the nation and a high school smoking rate of 6.9%, according to the 2015 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey, only 42.8% of middle school students and 26.6% of high school students reported being taught tobacco prevention in school. The Florida Tobacco Prevention Training for Educators is an on-line course allowing Florida Department of Education certified educators in grades K-12 to take this tobacco prevention course at no cost to them. Upon completion, educators are to teach six (6) tobacco prevention lessons to their students, and in return they can receive either 30- or 60 points towards the renewal of their DOE certificate.
Can you imagine the outcome if more students had tobacco prevention education?
Click HERE for the full report of Broken Promises to Our Children.