Louisiana is doing a poor job of funding tobacco cessation and prevention programs, according to a national report issued Tuesday by a coalition of public health organizations.
The report found that tobacco companies spend $32 promoting use of their product for every $1 Louisiana spends to prevent kids from smoking and to help smokers quit. In addition, Louisiana is spending $7 million this year on anti-smoking prevention programs — 11.7 percent of the $59.6 million recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This giant gap is undermining efforts to save lives and health care dollars by reducing tobacco use, the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States,” the report warns.
Louisiana ranks 28th in the country on its efforts to combat tobacco use.
The report was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights and Truth Initiative.
“The tobacco companies are as relentless as ever in marketing their lethal products, so it is critical that Louisiana step up its efforts to protect our kids from tobacco addiction and help smokers quit,” Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a news release.
“To drive down smoking, Louisiana should significantly raise its cigarette tax and increase funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs. Louisiana is putting its children at risk and costing taxpayers billions by failing to implement these proven strategies that save lives and money.”
The coalition said Louisiana took a small step this year toward reducing tobacco use by increasing the state’s cigarette tax by 50 cents to 86 cents per pack, but the tax is still well below the state average of $1.61 per pack. Health advocates are pushing for a larger cigarette tax increase in 2016 to have a greater impact on reducing smoking, especially among kids.
Other key findings for Louisiana include:
Tobacco claims 7,200 lives and costs the state $1.9 billion in health care bills annually.
The state will collect $397.9 million this year from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes but will spend only 1.8 percent of it on tobacco prevention programs. Forty states settled lawsuits in November 1998 requiring major cigarette manufacturers to pay out an estimated $246 billion during the first 25 years to address public health problems.
12.1 percent of high school students smoke, and 3,700 kids become regular smokers each year.
The full report and state-specific information can be found at www.tobaccofreekids.org/reports/settlements.