Connecticut will collect $519.7 million in revenue this year from the 1998 state tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend none of it on tobacco prevention programs.
That’s according to the latest report from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights and Truth Initiative.
The report titled: “Broken Promises to Our Children: A State-by-State Look at the 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 18 Years Later,” shows that Connecticut is tied for last in the nation when it comes to funding programs to prevent kids from smoking and helping smokers quit.
Connecticut and New Jersey are the only two states that have not budgeted state funds this year for tobacco prevention and cessation programs, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
It’s recommended by the Centers for Disease Control that Connecticut spend $32 million on tobacco prevention programs.
But the state has a history of underfunding tobacco-prevention programs. Funding dropped to $6 million in fiscal year 2013 to $1.2 million in fiscal 2016 and to zero this year.
At the same time, tobacco companies spend more than $73 million each year to market their products in Connecticut, according to the press release.
Connecticut does have the second highest tobacco tax at $3.90 and has taken steps to reduce tobacco use, but eliminating the funding for tobacco prevention and cessation program risks losing the gains it has made.
In addition to increasing funding for tobacco prevention, the group is recommending the state increase the age for sale of tobacco to 21.
“Connecticut is putting children’s health at risk and costing taxpayers money by failing to fund tobacco prevention programs that save lives and health care dollars,” Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a release. “Because of the tremendous progress our country, it is within our reach to win the fight against tobacco and make the next generation tobacco-free. Connecticut should be doing everything it can to protect kids from tobacco, including boosting funding for tobacco prevention and raising the tobacco age to 21.”
In Connecticut, 10.3 percent of high school students smoke and 1,500 kids become regular smokers each year. Tobacco use claims 4,900 Connecticut lives and costs the state $2 billion in healthcare bills annually, the release said.
Nationwide, the U.S. has cut smoking rates to record lows — 15.1 percent among adults and 10.8 percent among high school students in 2015. If recent progress in reducing adult smoking continues, the U.S. could eliminate smoking by around 2035, according to a recent analysis in The New England Journal of Medicine.