by: Zayda Rivera
Thirty-five years ago you could walk into an office and instantly become enveloped with a haze of smoke. Seeing ashtrays in meeting rooms, offices and on airplanes was common. Today, tobacco use is known as the nation’s number one cause of preventable death. Tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke kill more than 400,000 people in the United States each year and cost the nation more than $96 billion in health care bills.
If those stats weren’t grim enough, there’s an even darker underlying issue that exists with tobacco use and our children. Every day, another 1,000 kids become regular smokers – one-third of them will die prematurely as a result.
While we’ve seen a decline in tobacco use since the 90’s it is still an everyday uphill battle. To keep this issue controlled and continue seeing declines, states must invest in programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. But a report titled “A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 12 Years Later,” shows the opposite.
The report released by a coalition of public health organizations, found that states have slashed funding for programs to reduce tobacco use to the lowest level since 1999. So while the states this year (Fiscal Year 2011) will collect $25.3 billion in revenue from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, they will spend only two percent of it – $517.9 million – on programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit.
With the U.S. adult smoking rate stalled at 20.6 percent after decades of decline, the report warns that continued progress against tobacco use is at risk unless states increase funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs. The report also calls on states to increase tobacco taxes and, for states that have yet to do so, to enact strong smoke-free laws that apply to all workplaces, restaurants and bars.
Today, scores of cities and states are smoke free, covering more than 30 percent of the population and we all breathe a little easier because of it. After all, it is an individual choice to smoke but when your preference kills others around you it is no longer personal – it’s a problem. Quit today!
For more information please visit, www.tobaccofreekids.org/reports/settlements/