Report: Washington falls short in tobacco prevention efforts

Associated Press

SEATTLE — Washington falls short on tobacco prevention efforts to save lives and fight cancer, according to an American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network report. A Progress Report on State Legislative Activity to Reduce Cancer Incidence and Mortality evaluates states in 10 cancer-fighting policies. Washington woefully underfunds tobacco control. In fiscal year 2016, it spent $640,000 on tobacco prevention — 1 percent of the CDC-recommended $63.6 million.

“Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death, killing 8,300 Washingtonians yearly,” said ACS CAN Washington Grassroots Manager Christopher Friend. “This deadly addiction costs each household $809 in annual tobacco-related health care costs. Let’s combat tobacco, save lives and save Washingtonians money.”

Smoking has declined, but nine out of 10 current smokers start before 18. Youth are turning away from conventional cigarettes, but shifting to e-cigarettes, used by 23 percent of Washington teens.

Despite this, Washington funds tobacco prevention at its lowest level since 1998. As recently as 2009, the state spent $28 million on prevention, but funding was slashed during budget cuts in 2010. Funding comes from tobacco taxes and the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement — billions of dollars of yearly payments from tobacco companies to compensate for costs of tobacco-related illnesses.

“Washington gets $676 million yearly from tobacco taxes and Master Settlement Agreement, but spends less than $1 million preventing future generations from getting hooked on nicotine,” Friend said. “Quitting isn’t easy so we must provide resources to help people be successful, while deterring youth from starting.”

For every $1 states spend to reduce tobacco consumption, tobacco companies spend on average $20 marketing their deadly products. In Washington, it amounts to almost $91 million annually.

Fully funded tobacco control programs decrease tobacco use and tobacco-related illnesses, lowering health care costs. Unless current smoking rates decline, 104,000 Washington children alive today will die prematurely from tobacco.

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