In 1998 states started receiving money from the lawsuits against the tobacco industry and many saw this as a win for health. Now 19 years later, the states’ buckets that the tobacco industry has been throwing money into seems to have had holes in it all along as that money is being drained to balance state budgets. The states will collect $27.5 billion from tobacco taxes and the settlement in Fiscal Year 2018, but less than 3%, or $721.6 million, will make its way to youth prevention and adult cessation programs. Meanwhile the tobacco industry is spending $1 million dollars every hour to target tobacco users with their products. Put it another way, while states spend $1 to reduce tobacco use, the tobacco industry is spending $12 to market their wares. Is it any wonder we aren’t making better progress?
According to the report, Florida’s ranking remains at 14 for the second year in a row. Spending for programs is up $800k to $68.6 million this year, putting us at 35.3% of the Centers for Disease Control recommended spending of $194.2 million. Considering our state takes in $1,586.3 million in total state tobacco revenue, more could be spent. And while the state is spending nearly $70 million for programs, the tobacco industry is spending $558.8 million on marketing, or a ratio of 8.1 to 1.
In some regards, the state of Florida is luckier than most. The number of high school students who smoke is one of the lowest in the nation at 5.2%. And while the adult smoking rate is also low at 15.5%, it is troubling to see a big jump between high school and adult smoking rates.
More adult smokers means more smoking years and higher annual health care costs caused by smoking, which is at $8.64 billion in Florida. Higher smoking rates means higher cancer deaths due to smoking, which is at 29.4% . And every day approximately 88 people die in our state due to smoking. The burden of smoking isn’t just for the smoker. Every household in the state pays $748 towards the state and federal tax burden from smoking-caused government expenditures.
Tobacco use is the number 1 cause of preventable death in the United States, and we know we need to do more here in Florida. The Florida cigarette tax, which hasn’t seen an increase since 2009, needs to be increased. Studies has shown that when tobacco taxes are increased, smoking decreases among both adults and youth. Florida also needs to remove the outdated preemption law from the state and allow cities and counties to pass laws to protect their citizens from smoking in public areas.
Our federal government also needs to do more to protect the public from tobacco related health issues. Increasing the federal tobacco age to 21 would reduce youth use. Almost 90% of adult smokers started smoking by age 18, but the peak years for first trying to smoke appear to be in the 6th and 7th grades. Raising the age would help stop older youth from purchasing tobacco for younger peers. Banning flavored tobacco products, including menthol, would also reduce youth use. According to the CDC “in 2014 73% of high school students and 56% of middle school students reported using a flavored tobacco product in the past 30 days.” Banning internet sales of all tobacco/vaping/nicotine purchases and requiring face-to-face exchanges only would further reduce youth use. And finally, requiring graphic health warnings on all tobacco/nicotine products would help reduce use.
Cigarettes may be a legal product, but it is the only one that will kill half of its users early and sicken non-users who are exposed to the smoke. We can’t expect the numbers to decrease by themselves, but we can make it more difficult for youth to start a deadly lifetime addiction.
Click HERE for the report Broken Promises to Our Children and the state by state report.