A national anti-smoking activist says Iowa’s government leaders should -again- strive to raise the state’s tax on cigarettes. Carter Steger, a senior director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, says Iowa isn’t following through on its promises to invest a certain percentage of its winnings from the landmark 1998 tobacco court settlement in prevention programs.

Steger says, “Iowa currently is spending $7.3-million annually on tobacco prevention and unfortunately, that’s only 20% of what the Centers for Disease Control recommends which is $36.7-million per year.” She says Iowa had agreed to spend significantly more money on programs to help smokers quit and on keeping kids from taking up smoking — but the state’s not under any legal obligation to do so.

Steger says Iowa is seeing many positive returns from the 2008 state law that banned smoking in most public places, in addition to the state’s dollar-a-pack cigarette tax increase in 2007.

“For every 10% increase in the price of tobacco, you see a 7% decrease in youth smoking rates and a 4% decrease in adult consumption,” Steger says. “In addition, you get the revenue at the state level that could help fund tobacco prevention programs.”

Iowa’s cigarette tax increase more than three years ago took the amount of state taxes per pack from 36-cents to a dollar-36. Steger says that was effective, for a while, but the tax now needs to be raised again.

“The thing about a tax increase is that you have to keep doing them every so often so you continue to see that reduction in youth (smoking rates),” Steger says. “The highest tax in the country is at $4.35. New York state has that tax, so you can see that Iowa has some room to move to even come close to $4.35.”

She says a new study from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, called “Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids,” finds states have cut tobacco prevention funding to the lowest level since 1999, the first year they received settlement funds. It says states cut prevention funds by 28% in the last three years, despite receiving huge amounts of revenue from the tobacco industry.

Steger says tobacco use is the nation’s number-one cause of preventable death, killing more than 400,000 Americans every year and costing nearly $100 billion in health care bills. Learn more at: www.acscan.org