A new report shows state programs designed to reduce tobacco use have been cut by 12% in the past year. The report by the Coalition of Public Health Organizations, says 36% of the funding has been cut in the last four years. Peggy Huppert of the American Cancer Society says that’s disappointing in the wake of Iowa’s 65% funding cut.
“We knew what the situation was here in Iowa, now we see that we are part of a very troubling national trend,” Huppert says. All states have faced budget troubles, but Huppert says Iowa’s cut is linked more to politics. Huppert says,”No other state program suffered a similarly sized cut, it really wasn’t so much the budget as it was objections to what the programs were doing.”
Lawmakers were not happy with the way the youth-led “Just Eliminate Lies” anti-tobacco program was run. One billboard that drew the ire of a legislator showed a sign for Lakeview Iowa and said “Tobacco can kill this town in one day.” Senator Steve Kettering, a Republican from Lake View, says the sign made the town which relies on tourism look like it was dead. (Lakeview story).
The position of the director of the Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Division was also cut by the governor’s new Public Health Department director.
Huppert is the director of government relations for the Iowa Chapter of the Cancer Society. She says the foe they’ve been fighting hasn’t cut its spending. She says the tobacco industry continues spending “tens of millions of dollars” aggressively marketing its product.
“We know that if the trend lines continue and the amount of money being spent by the state continues downward, while the tobacco company continues its upward, aggressively marketing, the smoking rates and the use of tobacco will climb,” Huppert says. Huppert says it’s unlikely the legislature will increase tobacco prevention funding this year and she says the only thing that will likely lead to new money is an increase in smoking.
“It may take a few years, so when we can go back to the legislature and show them that smoking has increased, that smokeless tobacco usage has increased, especially among young people, which it will, then we’ll probably get more money to reverse the trend,” Huppert said, “it’s unfortunate that it has to be that way, but it probably is what will happen.”
In the meantime, Huppert hopes the state can do something to prevent the increase in smoking among young people. She says they will be keeping an eye on state programs to see if they use “evidenced based programs.” Huppert says those programs don’t include adults talking to kids about smoking, which she says doesn’t work.
“What is an effective kids talking to kids, peer-to-peer, and that is what JEL was based on.” The national report says states are spending less than two cents of every dollar of revenue from the tobacco settlement and taxes to fight tobacco use.
You can see the whole report here: www.tobaccofreekids.org.