An annual report from a coalition of health care groups claims Iowa is shortchanging programs to help prevent people from taking up smoking and to help smokers quit.

John Schachter, spokesman for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, says the Centers for Disease Control recommends Iowa spend about $30 million a year on such programs, but falls far short.

“Iowa is spending $5.2 million dollars on tobacco prevention which is only 17% of what the CDC recommends,” Schachter says. “That puts Iowa right in the middle of the pack, ranking 24th.” Nationwide, tobacco companies spend more than nine-billion dollars a year to market their products, which doesn’t include another $100 million to market e-cigarettes. By underfunding prevention and cessation programs, Schachter says Iowa is missing a golden opportunity to save lives and cut tobacco-related health care costs.

“What’s most distressing is that Iowa receives over $300 million in tobacco revenue from the state’s settlement with the tobacco companies as well as state tobacco taxes,” Schachter says. “You’re seeing the state spend less than 2% of their revenue on prevention programs and that’s just a recipe for disaster.” Studies have found Iowa could save five-dollars in tobacco-related medical costs for every dollar spent on tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

“In Iowa, the youth smoking rate is incredibly high,” Schachter says. “It’s still over 18% and that’s a problem because that’s way above average. We’re seeing over 1,500 kids starting smoking every year in Iowa and over 5,000 people dying because of smoking-related illnesses.” Iowa’s cigarette tax is a dollar-36 per pack, which is 33-cents below the national average. The cigarette tax in some states, like New York, is over four dollars a pack.

“The single best way to bring down smoking, especially among youth, is to increase a state’s tobacco tax,” Schachter says. “When the price of tobacco and cigarettes go up, youth use especially comes down. We know it will work. It brings down youth use, it raises revenue and it saves health care costs, so it’s a win-win-win for everyone involved.”

Of all cancer deaths in Iowa, nearly 28 percent of them are attributable to smoking. Schachter says tobacco use is the number-one cause of preventable death in Iowa and nationwide.