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December 27, 2018

National report: Maine ranks 16th in protecting kids from tobacco

Courtesy /  Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
Courtesy / Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
Map shows how Maine compares with other states in funding programs that prevent kids from using tobacco or help smokers quit.

Maine ranks 16th nationwide in funding programs that prevent kids from using tobacco and help smokers quit, according to a new report by leading public health groups. Maine is spending $4.8 million this year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is just 30.4% of the $15.9 million recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report — "Broken Promises to Our Children: A State-by-State Look at the 1998 Tobacco Settlement 20 Years Later" — was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights and Truth Initiative.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the landmark 1998 legal settlement between the states and the tobacco companies, which required the companies to pay more than $200 billion over time as compensation for tobacco-related health care costs.

The report challenges states to do more to fight tobacco use – the nation's No. 1 preventable cause of death — and to confront the growing epidemic of youth e-cigarette use in America. In Maine, 8.7% of high school students smoke cigarettes, while 15.8% use e-cigarettes. Tobacco use claims 2,400 Maine lives and costs the state $811 million in health care bills annually.

Other key findings include:

  • Maine will collect $188.5 million in revenue this year from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend only 2.6% of the money on tobacco prevention programs.
  • Tobacco companies spend $46.7 million each year to market their deadly and addictive products in Maine — more than nine times what the state spends on tobacco prevention. Nationwide, tobacco companies spend $9.5 billion a year on marketing — that's over $1 million every hour.
  • The report spotlights the need for increased tobacco prevention funding in Maine to complement the state's other strong policies, including a relatively high cigarette tax ($2.00 per pack), strong smoke-free workplace law and recently implemented law raising the tobacco sale age to 21.

"Maine has made significant progress, but its inadequate funding for tobacco prevention programs is putting kids' health at risk and burdening taxpayers with higher tobacco-related health care costs," said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "Maine leaders cannot let their guard down as tobacco is still the No. 1 cause of preventable death and e-cigarettes threaten to addict another generation. To win this fight, Maine needs to do its part to make the next generation tobacco-free."

E-cigarette epidemic

Nationwide, the U.S. has reduced smoking to record lows — 14% among adults and 7.6% among high school students.

But tobacco use still kills more than 480,000 Americans and costs the nation about $170 billion in health care expenses each year. The report highlights the need to address large disparities in who still smokes, with smoking rates highest among people with lower income and less education, residents of the Midwest and South, American Indians/Alaska Natives, LGBT Americans, those who are uninsured or on Medicaid, and those with mental illness.

The report also highlights the epidemic of young people using e-cigarettes. Driven by the popularity of Juul, a sleek, easy-to-hide e-cigarette that is sold in sweet flavors and delivers a powerful dose of nicotine, e-cigarette use among U.S. high school students skyrocketed by 78% this year to 20.8%/ In 2018, more than 3.6 million middle and high school students were current e-cigarette users — an increase of 1.5 million in just one year.

Prevention funding falls short

By funding tobacco prevention and cessation programs at the CDC's recommended levels, states can reduce tobacco use among all Americans. But most states are falling far short, according to the report, which noted they will collect $27.3 billion this year from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes but will spend only 2.4% of it ($655 million) on tobacco prevention programs.

The $655 million that the states have budgeted for tobacco prevention is a small fraction of the $3.3 billion the CDC recommends. Not a single state funds tobacco prevention programs at CDC-recommended levels, and only two states — Alaska and California — provide even 70% of the recommended funding, according to the report.

States with well-funded, sustained tobacco prevention programs have seen remarkable progress, according to the report. Florida, with one of the longest-running programs, has reduced its high school smoking rate to 3.6%, one of the lowest rates ever reported by any state.

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Report on states' funding of programs to deter or cease smoking

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