State governments are collecting record revenues from tobacco companies but spending less and less of it on antismoking programs, especially in New York, a group of health and advocacy organizations said in a report released Wednesday.
In the report, titled “A Broken Promise to Our Children,” the organizations said state governments had reduced spending by 15 percent, to $567 million, for smoking prevention and cessation programs in the fiscal year that ended in September.
State spending on antismoking programs accounted for only 2.3 percent of the more than $25 billion that states are expected to collect from tobacco taxes and payouts from the $246 billion settlement that states reached with tobacco companies in 1998, the groups said in their 11th annual report since the settlement.
“It’s a travesty that only a small fraction of tobacco settlement funds is actually being used to support tobacco prevention programs in states,” Nancy Brown, chief executive of the American Heart Association — one of the groups behind the report — said in a statement.
States are not required to spend the money on antismoking programs. The National Conference of State Legislatures reported Wednesday that states had to fill a cumulative budget gap of $145 billion this year because of unprecedented revenue declines.
States’ tobacco-related revenue has grown because 14 states have raised taxes on tobacco in the recession and the payouts from the 1998 tobacco settlement increased in 2008.
New York State made some of the largest cuts to antismoking programs, reducing them by $25.2 million, or 31 percent, the groups said, adding that it did so “despite having a successful program that has reduced smoking to well below national rates.”
Other states that made large cuts last year were Colorado, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Washington.
Only one state, North Dakota, has smoking prevention and cessation programs at the level recommended by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the report said.
Matt Anderson, budget spokesman for Gov. David A. Paterson of New York, said the state had to cut the programs to help fill a $3 billion deficit.
“Because of the magnitude of the fiscal emergency, that’s going to mean less funding for some worthy programs,” Mr. Anderson said in a telephone interview.
He added that New York still spent more than $50 million on antismoking programs, including a smaller advertising campaign, free nicotine patches and a toll-free quit line.
Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, another advocacy group involved in the report, said state budget deficits should not be used as an excuse to cut tobacco prevention programs.
Russell Sciandra, director of the Center for a Tobacco Free New York, said: “The cuts here are very disproportionate to what other states are doing. It’s like they regard it as some kind of fluffy program.”
The other groups involved in the report, including the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said it was shortsighted to cut smoking programs. They called on Congress to ensure that more disease prevention initiatives were part of health care changes.
The report says tobacco companies spend $20 on marketing for every $1 that states spend on antismoking efforts. The five largest tobacco companies spent $12.5 billion on advertising and promotion in 2006, the latest year figures were available, a Federal Trade Commission spokeswoman, Betsy Lordan, said.
Adult smoking in the United States has leveled off at about 21 percent, virtually unchanged since 2004, the report said, while smoking among high school students declined to 20 percent in 2008, from 36 percent in 1997.
By DUFF WILSON
December 9, 2009 Nytimes