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Tobacco tax increases not funding smoking prevention

Fourteen states and Washington, D.C., hiked cigarette taxes in 2009, but not enough of that money is going toward public health efforts, the CDC says.

By Doug Trapp — Posted April 20, 2010

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States continued to increase tobacco taxes in 2009, but at the same time they reduced their tobacco prevention spending.

The District of Columbia and 14 states increased their per-pack tobacco taxes in 2009: Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin. The hikes ranged in size from 15 cents to $1, according to an April 8 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These taxes and other tobacco-related revenue raise billions. States in fiscal 2010 are collecting $17 billion from tobacco taxes and $8.1 billion in payments from state lawsuit settlements, according to "A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 11 Years Later." The report was released in December 2009 by a coalition of anti-smoking and public health groups.

But states are spending only $567.5 million on tobacco prevention and cessation in fiscal 2010, about 15% less than they did in fiscal 2009. The CDC recommends that states spend about six times the 2010 amount, according to the coalition report.

"If they did, their long-term health care spending would be considerably reduced," said Marie Cocco, spokeswoman for the Campaign For Tobacco Free Kids, a co-author of the report.

State funding of tobacco prevention varies widely. North Dakota is spending $9.3 billion of its $9.4 billion in tobacco-related funding on prevention in fiscal 2010, which slightly exceeds CDC recommendations. Tennessee spends $71.7 million of its $1.5 billion in tobacco-related dollars, or just 2.1% of CDC's suggested funding.

State tobacco tax rates also vary widely. South Carolina's tax of seven cents per pack is the lowest in the nation. Rhode Island's is the highest, at $3.46 per pack. States had an average tobacco tax of $1.34 per pack in 2009, up 16 cents from 2008. The CDC report did not analyze county and municipal tobacco taxes and spending. New York City, for example, imposes its own tax of $1.50 per pack.

The CDC report is available online (link).

The coalition report also is available online (link).

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