published Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Tennessee, Georgia rank low in spending on anti-smoking programs

NASHVILLE —Tennessee and Georgia rank near the bottom among states in funding programs aimed at preventing kids from smoking and helping current smokers quit, according to a national report released today.

The report from a coalition of health groups says Tennessee’s standing is 45th in funding when it comes to smoking prevention and cessation, down from No. 44 in the last fiscal year.

Georgia’s ranking dropped from 40th to 43rd, according to according to the report, titled “Broken Promises to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 14 Years Later.”

Tennessee currently spends just $222,267 a year in state dollars on prevention and cessation efforts. That’s just .3 percent of the $71.7 million recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The figure for Georgia is $750,000 or .6 percent of the CDC’s recommended $116.5 million.

In Tennessee, 21.6 percent of high school students smoke, and 7,600 more kids become regular smokers each year. Twenty-three percent of adults smoke.

Tobacco annually claims 9,700 lives and costs the state $2.2 billion in health care bills.

Across the border in Georgia, 17 percent of kids smoke while 21.2 percent of adults do. Tobacco-related deaths are estimated at 10,500 and annual costs are pegged at $2.25 billion.

Nationally, the report finds that most states are failing to adequately fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs. States are receiving billions over a period of years from a settlement with major tobacco companies. But little of the money has found its way into programs dealing with the program, the report says.

In Tennessee, state lawmakers in the early 2000s dedicated most of the money to fill a recurring budget hole.

Most states do not adequately fund tobacco prevention programs, the report says. Just two, Alaska and North Dakota, currently fund these programs at the level recommended by the CDC, the report said.

The study was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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