IDAHO — Idaho ranks 20th nationwide in funding programs that prevent kids from using tobacco and help smokers quit, according to a report released today by leading public health groups. Idaho is spending $3.6 million this year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is just 23.3 percent of the $15.6 million recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The report challenges states to do more to fight tobacco use – the nation's number one preventable cause of death – and to confront the growing epidemic of youth e-cigarette use in America. In Idaho, 9.1 percent of high school students smoke cigarettes, while 14.3 percent use e-cigarettes. Tobacco use claims 1,800 Idaho lives and costs the state $508 million in health care bills annually. Health advocates are urging state leaders to increase the tobacco sale age to 21.
"Idaho is putting kids' health at risk and burdening taxpayers with higher tobacco-related health care costs by continuing to shortchange tobacco prevention programs," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "We've made great strides in reducing smoking rates, but we cannot let our 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, Idaho needs to do its part to make the next generation tobacco-free."
Nationwide, the U.S. has reduced smoking to record lows – 14 percent among adults and 7.6 percent 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. Today's 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 youth e-cigarette epidemic. 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 percent this year to 20.8 percent. In 2018, more than 3.6 million middle and high school students were current e-cigarette users – an alarming increase of 1.5 million in just one year.
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:
- The states will collect $27.3 billion this year from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes but will spend only 2.4 percent 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 percent of the recommended funding.
- States with well-funded, sustained tobacco prevention programs have seen remarkable progress. Florida, with one of the longest-running programs, has reduced its high school smoking rate to 3.6 percent, one of the lowest rates ever reported by any state.