State Slipped in National Ranking of Anti-Smoking Efforts

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Massachusetts ranks 33rd in the nation in funding tobacco prevention programs, down from 31st place, according to a report on states’ anti-smoking efforts. The report was released Wednesday by a coalition of public health organizations.

The state spends $12.8 million a year on prevention programs, just over a third of the minimum amount recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the report. Last year, Massachusetts spent $8.3 million on tobacco prevention.

The annual report, titled “A Broken Promise to Our Children,” was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and the American Lung Association.

The report’s findings for Massachusetts include:

  • Tobacco companies spend more than $194 million a year on marketing in Massachusetts. That is more than 15 times what the state spends on prevention.
  • The state will collect $711 million this year from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend 1.8 percent of it on anti-smoking programs.

While the report painted a dim picture of anti-tobacco efforts, a New Bedford-based advocate offered a more upbeat picture of the state’s prevention measures.

After deep cuts in previous years, Gov. Deval Patrick has shown commitment to improving the situation, said Judith Coykendall, program manager for Partners for Clear Air, a program of Seven Hills Behavioral Health.

“Things are getting better,” she said. “Even though that news is bad, we really feel we’re on an upswing.”

Last month, Gov. Patrick announced a tobacco cessation campaign that will run through April and feature advertising on television, the Internet, buses and trains, as well as a companion Web site, fight4yourlife.org, according to a news release at the time.

The national report said that although Massachusetts increased funds for tobacco prevention programs this year, current funding is below the $48 million the state spent in fiscal 2002, when it ranked first in the nation.

“Massachusetts has made a modest improvement in protecting kids from tobacco, but budget cuts have reduced the effectiveness of what was once one of the nation’s best tobacco prevention programs,” William V. Corr, executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in the news release.

Nine years after the 1998 state tobacco settlement, the report finds that the states this year have increased total funding for tobacco prevention programs by 20 percent, to $717.2 million.

However, most states still fail to fund prevention programs at minimum levels recommended by the CDC. Only three states — Maine, Delaware and Colorado — fund prevention programs at CDC minimum levels, the national report said.

The State slipped in national ranking of anti-smoking efforts

Originally written by:  Brian Boyd, Standard-Times staff writer
 bboyd@s-t.com

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