States use only 3 percent of tobacco revenue for tobacco prevention, and Kentucky spends even less: 0.7 percent

When cigarette manufacturers agreed in 1998 to pay billions of dollars to settle a lawsuit by states seeking reimbursement of health costs related to smoking, the presumption was that the states would spend a large part of the money on tobacco prevention. Few have, and Kentucky is among the low spenders, though it is a national leader in smoking and tobacco-related health costs.

Those points are made annually in reports by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights and Truth Initiative.

The latest report, "Broken Promises to Our Children: A State-by-State Look at the 1998 Tobacco Settlement 19 Years Later," says states will spend less than 3 percent of this fiscal year's settlement funds and tobacco taxes – $27.5 billion out of $721.6 million – "on programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit."

The report says Kentucky will get $371 million this fiscal year from the settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend only $2.6 million on tobacco prevention, a meager 0.7 percent. The spending is less than 5 percent of the $56 million that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the state should spend.

Meanwhile, tobacco companies spend $250 million a year on marketing in Kentucky, and $8.9 billion nationally – "$1 million every hour – to market their deadly and addictive products," the report says.

That's way out of whack, said Charlie Ross of Mayfield, board chair of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. "Health care expenses and productivity losses tied to smoking total more than $19 per pack, yet the state gets just 60 cents per pack in tobacco taxes," Ross said in a release. "It seems pretty straightforward that we need to focus more resources on preventing what's behind these costs. We'll not only reduce health-care expenditures, we'll save lives and draw more jobs to the Commonwealth from companies that need a healthy workforce to grow their business."

Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the foundation, said "Kentucky continues to make small strides in reducing smoking rates among both adults and youth, but we remain substantially higher than the national average and almost every other state. That's particularly true in Appalachian counties, where the rate hovers around 30 percent, double the national average. The single most effective way to reduce these rates is to raise the price of cigarettes through a substantial state tax increase of at least $1 per pack."

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