Though Texas is collecting about $1.9 billion a year from cigarette taxes and its big tobacco settlement, it is using only a tiny portion on programs to prevent youth smoking cheap MT cigarette, a new study found. Texas ranked 39th in the study among states in paying for smoking prevention and cessation — and now allocates only $5.5 million per year for those items. “This means Texas is spending less than a penny of every dollar in tobacco revenue to fight tobacco use,” said a statement issued with the report by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other organizations last week.
The report, titled “A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 13 Years Later,” says Texas spends 2 percent of what is recommended on smoking prevention by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It’s such a missed opportunity,” said James Gray, Texas director of government relations for the American Cancer Society, one of the groups that produced the national report. “Tobacco is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in Texas.”
More than 24,000 people in Texas die each year because of tobacco use, and most started using at 14 or 15, Gray said. “They made a decision at that age to shorten their lives.”
Most of the $1.9 billion revenue figure cited in the study comes from Texas’ cigarette tax.
At $1.41 per pack, the tax raised $1.5 billion last fiscal year, according to the state comptroller’s office.
The $5.5 million in state money now spent annually for smoking prevention and cessation comes from tobacco settlement money.
That spending level is half of what was allocated for tobacco prevention last year.
Gray said state leaders haven’t sufficiently followed up to prevent youths from smoking, despite proven effectiveness of such programs and even though the cost of treating tobacco-related illnesses was a major reason for the multistate lawsuit against big tobacco companies that was settled in 1998.
As part of the settlement, the tobacco industry agreed to pay Texas $15 billion over 25 years and to pay $2.3 billion through 2003 to Texas counties and hospital districts based on their indigent care, according to legislative records and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
Early on, lawmakers allocated more than $3 billion of the settlement money to assorted health and higher education funds. A tobacco education and enforcement permanent fund was allotted $200 million, with the interest to be used by the state health agency for tobacco prevention.
As Texas receives new money from the settlement, legislators decide each session how to spend it. There’s no law requiring a certain amount of funding for smoking prevention each year.
Lawmakers continually grapple with how much to put into it, especially in tight budget years.
Anti-smoking pilot programs that once successfully targeted youths in several southeast Texas counties never went statewide.
At the start of the 2011 legislative session, initial House and Senate budget proposals didn’t include any funding for smoking prevention and cessation programs, though money was later appropriated.
“It was a very difficult budget session, and every agency had to fight for money,” Gray said. He and others advocated upping the cigarette tax and dedicating a portion of that new tax for anti-smoking programs. A legislative proposal to do that failed.
Last week’s study was issued by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Cancer Society Action Network, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.