A report from a coalition of public health groups finds Iowa is still getting tens of millions of dollars from the legal settlement with tobacco companies, but is spending less and less on smoking prevention and cessation programs. Danny McGoldrick is vice president of research for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. He says key elements of the landmark 1998 settlement are being ignored in the Hawkeye State.
McGoldrick says, “Iowa ranks 17th in our report this year so they’ve made a modest investment in tobacco prevention and cessation programs, but still spending just about 30% of what the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends that they spend on tobacco prevention.”
The coalition, which also includes the American Heart Association, says Iowa is spending just over 11-million dollars a year on smoking prevention and cessation programs, but the CDC says that figure should be closer to 37-million, as part of the settlement agreement. McGoldrick says, “With 3,500 Iowa kids becoming regular addicted smokers every year, we need to make a bigger investment to reduce the health impacts and the health care costs of tobacco use.” He says Iowa isn’t breaking any laws by not spending more money on prevention and cessation, but the state is going against what was agreed upon.
“The settlements really left it to our state legislatures and governors to appropriate the money,” McGoldrick says. “There were a lot of promises made and unfortunately, the promises haven’t been kept when it comes to using those resources to fund programs that we know will work if we just put the resources to the interventions that are proven to be effective in reducing smoking among kids and adults.”
The report finds 19% of Iowa high school students polled say they smoke, a number that hasn’t changed much in a few years.
“Youth smoking rates have leveled out,” McGoldrick says. “After years of coming down, they were skyrocketing before the settlement and then some states invested some money in tobacco prevention programs and prices went up as the companies raised prices to pay for the settlement. In the last few years, our progress has leveled out.
Nationally, adult smoking actually had a slight uptick in 2008.” He says about one-billion dollars is spent every year in Iowa treating tobacco-related illnesses. He says tobacco use is the number-one cause of preventable death in the U.S., killing more than 400,000 Americans every year and costing our nation nearly 100-billion in health care bills. For more details, visit: “tobaccofreekids.org“.