State of Texas Slashes Tobacco Prevention Funding Even With Tobacco Tax Dollars Available

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The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids recently published a report with information on current tobacco prevention funding and how each of the fifty states rank based on two variables, funding dollars and current tobacco use. Texas ranks 44th for 2018. In 2017, Texas ranked number 38, but due to the cuts in tobacco prevention funding this past legislative session, Texas is now ranked in the bottom 12%.

With Texas ranked as one of the unhealthiest states, tobacco prevention funding is needed. Unlike other state programs that rely on variable funding, tobacco prevention dollars are ready and available. The Texas tobacco tax revenue earns $1.9 billion per year. Unfortunately, only $4.5 million of that tax revenue is spent on tobacco prevention programs to prevent kids from smoking and to help smokers quit. The Center for Disease Control recommends $264 million be spent on tobacco prevention, but Texas spends only 1.7% of the recommended amount.

Not only does tobacco impact our health, it impacts the economy as well. The total annual public and private health care expenditures caused by smoking is approximately $170 billion and an additional $6.03 billion is caused solely from exposure to secondhand smoke.

Additionally, Big Tobacco spends billions, $8.9 to be exact, on advertising. Sadly enough, tobacco companies target vulnerable populations including children, those with mental illness, minority groups, uneducated, and people in poverty.

However, there are science-based strategies to reduce tobacco use:

· Comprehensive prevention programs. Prevention programs such as Towards No Tobacco, teach youth the dangers of tobacco as well as the skills needed to say no to tobacco; the program builds self-esteem, communication skills, and refusal skills.

· Raise tobacco prices. Studies show by raising the price of tobacco, tobacco use decreases, especially in youth.

· Smoke-Free ordinances. Smoke-free laws and policies effect the entire population and protect the vulnerable population. Everyone has a right to breath clean air.

· Tobacco 21. 80% of adult smokers begin smoking by age 18. By raising the minimum age to 21, it reduces the chance of youth initiating tobacco use.

In Angelina County, The Coalition, Inc. and other groups work to implement all of these strategies. Many of our local schools are already implementing tobacco prevention curriculum and Lufkin passed their no-smoking ordinance in 2013. However, with limited state funding, the programs and strategies are hindered. Sharon Kruk, Executive Director of The Coalition, states, “The Texas legislature cut our tobacco prevention program by 28% this year. We worked closely with our partners to ensure that we could maintain our current programs, but that big of a cut is devastating to prevention efforts. In addition, the legislature prohibited any state tobacco funding to be used on media efforts, so we are unable to continue our TV, radio, and print advertising for tobacco prevention. This means that we cannot advertise the Quitline (877-YES-QUIT), which is a free resource to help tobacco users quit the habit. It is unfortunate that the legislature does not realize the benefits of prevention.”

Bold action from our state and local governments are needed to accelerate the decrease in tobacco use. We encourage citizens to speak with their representatives and make them aware of the harmful impact tobacco has on the health of the population, economy, and especially our youth.

For over 25 years, The Coalition has focused on eliminating the use of harmful substances by affecting public policy, laws, attitudes and behaviors, all in an effort to foster healthy life-long choices for the local community. The Coalition is one of the oldest substance abuse prevention community coalitions in the United States. For more information, contact The Coalition at 936-634-9308.

For more information, please contact Sharon Kruk, Executive Director, at skruk@angelinacoalition.org or 936-634-9308.

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