John Schacter, director of state communications for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, says Iowa initially used most of its yearly allotment from the landmark lawsuit to help smokers quit and to keep youth from starting, but no more.
“The state’s bringing in a little over $280-million but is spending only $4.1-million of that, that’s only one-and-a-half percent, on tobacco prevention and cessation programs,” Schacter says. “That’s only a little more than 13% of what the CDC recommends the state spend, so it’s not a very strong showing.”
Twenty years ago, tobacco companies agreed to pay states annually to cover some of the medical costs states bear for tobacco-related illnesses among Medicaid patients. Schacter says Iowa is under no legal obligation to spend those millions of dollars on anti-smoking efforts.
“When the settlement was reached in 1998, I think it was more assumed that, of course, states will spend some of this money on tobacco prevention,” Schacter says. “That’s what the money is for. It came from an industry that spent decades lying and deceiving people and getting them addicted, costing lives and billions of dollars. Unfortunately, as time has gone on, more and more states are just putting the money into the general revenue fund and spending it on other things.”
Smoking prevention and cessation programs are proven to work nationwide and in other states, Schacter says, and Iowa is shortchanging itself by not investing more heavily in them. “States should just provide enough to fulfill the recommendations of the CDC and if states do that, we’ll be in great shape,” Schacter says. “Unfortunately, nationally, states are providing less than 3% of what the CDC recommends. Meanwhile, we’re up against big tobacco and they’re spending more than $1 million every hour marketing their products.”
A survey finds about 19% of Iowans are smokers and the state spends more than one-billion dollars every year on health care costs that are directly linked to smoking.