According to one medical journal, states should be spending more of their tobacco settlement money on anti-smoking ad campaigns.
State-sponsored anti-tobacco ads play a major role in preventing kids from smoking and changing their attitudes toward tobacco, according to a study published in the July issue of the journal Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.
Advocates for anti-smoking campaigns said the results should convince state legislatures to rethink cutbacks and paltry spending for anti-smoking campaigns.
The study tracked more than 51,000 students in top 75 U.S. media markets. It found that youth exposed to state anti-tobacco ads are more likely to recognize that smoking is addictive and harmful and are less likely to smoke.
"This new study demonstrates once again that funding tobacco prevention programs is a wise investment that will reduce smoking, save lives, and save money by reducing smoking-related health care costs," said Matthew L. Myers, president, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "It should convince legislators and governors that anti-tobacco advertising campaigns are a key component of these programs in order to counter the more than $34 million a day the tobacco industry spends to market its deadly products in the U.S."
Myers said the study is particularly persuasive because it accounted for other influences on smoking behavior, such as cigarette prices, public smoking restrictions, and other tobacco-related advertising.
Myers said it is "inexcusable" that only three states--Maine, Delaware and Mississippi--fund tobacco prevention programs at the minimum levels recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The governor of one of those states, Mississippi's Haley Barbour, has been pushing to eliminate funding for his state program. Barbour, however, wants to put the money into the state's Medicaid program. Other states use the tobacco settlement money for healthcare or other budgetary needs.
Over the past three years, states have cut funding for tobacco prevention by 28%, according to figures compiled by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and in fiscal year 2005 spent $538 million, less than a third of the $1.6 billion annually that CDC recommends the 50 states combined should be spending.
TV advertising is a major component of each state's anti-smoking efforts, but money earmarked for the campaigns is less than 3% of the $20 billion in annual revenue states collected from a combination of tobacco taxes and the settlements reached with tobacco companies.
The study used Nielsen television ratings data to measure the exposure of 12-17 year olds to anti-tobacco advertising in the 75 largest media markets.
Researchers merged that information with data from the government's annual Monitoring the Future survey, which measures youth smoking rates and attitudes.
They found that students from media markets with higher exposure to state-sponsored anti-tobacco ads were significantly less likely to have smoked in the past 30 days than students from markets with no or lower exposure. Additionally, students who had greater exposure to state-sponsored anti-tobacco ads were significantly less likely to report that their friends were smokers, were more likely to perceive the harms of smoking, and were more likely to report that they definitely would not be smoking in five years.
The study was conducted by researchers from Bridging the Gap, a policy research program based at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and the University of Michigan. The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The new study and others show that Maine, with the nation's best-funded tobacco prevention program, reduced smoking by 48% among high school students and 59% among middle school students between 1997, when it launched its tobacco-prevention program, and 2003.
California and Massachusetts, before recent cuts in their programs, saved as much as $3 in smoking-related health costs for every dollar spent on tobacco prevention, according to the campaign.
More than 400,000 people die each year from tobacco-related illnesses that cost the nation more than $160 billion annually in health-care costs and lost productivity, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
High school smoking rates are down by 40% since 1997, but 22% of high school students still smoke, and 2,000 kids become regular smokers daily.